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The Benefits of a Stand Desk for Lower Back Discomfort

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For individuals working at a desk or work station where the majority of the work is done in a sitting position and increases the risk for a variety of health problems, can using a standing desk help prevent musculoskeletal problems and improve short and long-term wellness?

The Benefits of a Stand Desk for Lower Back Discomfort

Stand Desks

More than 80% of jobs are done in a seated position. Stand desks have proven to help. (Allene L. Gremaud et al., 2018) An adjustable stand desk is intended to be the standing height of an individual. Some desks can be lowered to use while sitting. These desks can improve:

  • Blood circulation
  • Back pain
  • Energy
  • Focus
  • Individuals who are less sedentary may experience decreased depression, anxiety, and risk of chronic disease.

Improve Posture and Decrease Back Pain

Sitting for prolonged periods can cause fatigue and physical discomfort. Back pain symptoms and sensations are common, especially when practicing unhealthy postures, already dealing with existing back problems, or using a non-ergonomic desk set-up. Instead of only sitting or standing for the whole workday, alternating between sitting and standing is far healthier. Practicing sitting and standing regularly reduces body fatigue and lower back discomfort. (Alicia A. Thorp et al., 2014) (Grant T. Ognibene et al., 2016)

Increases Energy Levels

Prolonged sitting correlates with fatigue, reduced energy, and productivity. A sit-stand desk can provide benefits like increased productivity levels. Researchers discovered that sit-stand desks could improve the general health and productivity of office workers. Individuals in the study reported:

  • A significant increase in subjective health.
  • Increased energy in work tasks.
  • Improved work performance. (Jiameng Ma et al., 2021)

Chronic Disease Reduction

According to the CDC, six in 10 individuals in the U.S. have at least one chronic disease, like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or cancer. Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability, as well as a leading force of healthcare costs. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2023) While further research is needed to see if standing desks can reduce the risk of chronic disease, one study looked to quantify the association between sedentary time and the risk of chronic disease or death. Researchers reported that sedentariness for prolonged periods was independently associated with negative health outcomes regardless of physical activity. (Aviroop Biswas et al., 2015)

Improved Mental Focus

Sitting for extended periods slows down blood circulation. This decreased blood flow to the brain lowers cognitive function and increases the risk of neurodegenerative conditions. One study confirmed that healthy individuals who worked in a prolonged sitting position had reduced brain blood flow. The study found that frequent, short walks could help prevent this. (Sophie E. Carter et al., 2018) Standing increases blood and oxygen circulation. This improves cognitive function, which also helps improve focus and concentration.

Depression and Anxiety Reduction

Modern lifestyles typically contain large amounts of sedentary behavior.

However, there is a small amount about the mental health risks of prolonged sedentary behavior. There have been a few studies aimed at improving public understanding. One study focused on a group of older adults, having them self-report sedentary habits that included television, internet, and reading time. This information was compared to their individual scoring on the Centre of Epidemiological Studies Depression scale. (Mark Hamer, Emmanuel Stamatakis. 2014)

  • The researchers found that certain sedentary behaviors are more harmful to mental health than others.
  • Television watching, for example, resulted in increased depressive symptoms and decreased cognitive function. (Mark Hamer, Emmanuel Stamatakis. 2014)
  • Internet use had the opposite effect, decreasing depressive symptoms and increasing cognitive function.
  • Researchers theorize that the results come from the contrasting environmental and social contexts in which they are happening. (Mark Hamer, Emmanuel Stamatakis. 2014)
  • Another study looked at the possible correlation between sedentary behavior and anxiety.
  • Increased amounts of sedentary behavior, especially sitting, seemed to increase the risk of anxiety. (Megan Teychenne, Sarah A Costigan, Kate Parker. 2015)

Incorporating a standing desk into the workspace can help to reduce the negative effects of sedentary behaviors, leading to improved productivity, improved mental and physical health, and a healthy work environment for individuals who work long hours at a desk or workstation.


Understanding Academic Low Back Pain: Impact and Chiropractic Solutions


References

Gremaud, A. L., Carr, L. J., Simmering, J. E., Evans, N. J., Cremer, J. F., Segre, A. M., Polgreen, L. A., & Polgreen, P. M. (2018). Gamifying Accelerometer Use Increases Physical Activity Levels of Sedentary Office Workers. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(13), e007735. doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.117.007735

Thorp, A. A., Kingwell, B. A., Owen, N., & Dunstan, D. W. (2014). Breaking up workplace sitting time with intermittent standing bouts improves fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort in overweight/obese office workers. Occupational and environmental medicine, 71(11), 765–771. doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2014-102348

Ognibene, G. T., Torres, W., von Eyben, R., & Horst, K. C. (2016). Impact of a Sit-Stand Workstation on Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a Randomized Trial. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine, 58(3), 287–293. doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000000615

Ma, J., Ma, D., Li, Z., & Kim, H. (2021). Effects of a Workplace Sit-Stand Desk Intervention on Health and Productivity. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(21), 11604. doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111604

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic disease.

Biswas, A., Oh, P. I., Faulkner, G. E., Bajaj, R. R., Silver, M. A., Mitchell, M. S., & Alter, D. A. (2015). Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of internal medicine, 162(2), 123–132. doi.org/10.7326/M14-1651

Carter, S. E., Draijer, R., Holder, S. M., Brown, L., Thijssen, D. H. J., & Hopkins, N. D. (2018). Regular walking breaks prevent the decline in cerebral blood flow associated with prolonged sitting. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 125(3), 790–798. doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00310.2018

Hamer, M., & Stamatakis, E. (2014). Prospective study of sedentary behavior, risk of depression, and cognitive impairment. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 46(4), 718–723. doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000156

Teychenne, M., Costigan, S. A., & Parker, K. (2015). The association between sedentary behaviour and risk of anxiety: a systematic review. BMC public health, 15, 513. doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-1843-x

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