We've all heard it before: Sitting for long periods is bad for you! Of course, most of us have jobs that require sitting at a desk for 8-9 hours every day. Sitting can cause increased pressure on lumbar inter-vertebral discs, low back sprains and strains, forward head posture, headaches and upper back pain. In an effort to decrease employee injuries and increase comfort, many modern offices are offering a new alternative: Standing Workstations.
A standing workstation is essentially a desk raised to a height at which the user can stand comfortably. This allows you to move more freely than sitting in a chair, which decreases the strain on your lower back. Because you are moving more, you also have more blood flow to your spinal muscles. This keeps the muscles functioning at a higher level and helps them to protect the spine from minor injuries. People who are standing generally have better posture than those who are seated, which also helps to decrease the strain on the neck and upper back.
Standing can have its own drawbacks, however. Many people who stand for hours at a time report hip pain, knee pain, foot pain and lower back pain as common. This is because of the pressure of the weight of your body on your pelvis and legs. Some of this strain can be alleviated by standing on a padded surface.
Perhaps the best solution is the convertible work station. These are a relatively new option that allow the employee to easily transition their desk from a seated to standing height, and back again. Many of my patients who have convertible work stations say they like to mix it up: start the day standing and then sit after lunch, or make Monday a standing day and Tuesday a sitting day, etc. The convertible option allows the desk user to make the desk really work for them. While it is still important to have an ergonomics evaluation of the convertible workstations, we feel they are a great long-term solution to the problem of spinal stress in the workplace.