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Why working standing up can be good for neck and back pain?

Sitting too much can lead to many health problems in the long-term: severe coronary heart disease, diabetes, and blood clots formation, etc. Prolonged sitters also report much back and neck pain.

This is the reason why your parents told you to sit in a straight position. Not just to look good, but they relate to myriad health concerns. You should sit straight so that your spinal cord remains straight at an angle to your neck. Switching regularly from working sitting down to working standing up is good for your posture, and your productivity because it helps to reduce the physical stress that a body has to endure by keeping you active throughout the day.

 

What is a Standing Desk?

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Picture: Thomas Jefferson and his stand-up desk.

“A standing desk or stand-up desk is a desk conceived for writing, reading or drawing while standing up or while sitting on a high stool.” (Wikipedia)

In the history, there are some of the writers and statesmen who wrote standing up: Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Jefferson, and Ernest Hemingway.

Working standing up benefits

Switching between sitting and standing have positive effects on:

  • Neck and Back pain: to be explained below
  • Obesity: unreasonable diet and physical inactivity is the main cause of obesity. If you switch between sitting and standing, you breaks the inactive habit, and add more small movements to your daily life.
  • Diabetes and Heart disease: prolonged sitting can increase the formation of blood clots inside your thigh, legs and slow down your metabolism. These are main causes of diabetes and heart diseases in older ages.
  • Cancer: there is not yet scientific evidence linking using a standing desk and lowering risk of cancer development. However, according to an article on American Cancer Society in 2018, too much time spent sitting have been associated with cancer development.

But “not sitting” can mean many things: walking, jogging, sprinting, swimming or standing still. Your health outcomes from “not sitting” may not mean the same.

 

How do you get Neck and Back pain?

Back and neck-area pain is so common that the World Health Organization has announced it as “one of the major causes of disability“, affecting the lives of workers worldwide. It increases the number of sick calls to work, affect the family economy, as well as macroeconomic scheme. Back and neck pain can be a result of any of the following reasons:

  • Lifting heavy objects with bad posture
  • Injury
  • Aging
  • Infection
  • Unusual development, for example, a tumor or bone spike
  • Overweight, which places weight on your spine, and your plates
  • Physical inactivity
  • Muscle strain
  • Sprain or strain
  • Tendon or muscle tears
  • Joint issues, for example, arthritis
  • Smoking, yes, smoking can cause back pain
  • Jutting or herniated (slipped) circle and squeezed nerve
  • Cancer of spinal cord
  • Bad sitting, standing, and sleeping posture

In short, pain in the back area is commonly caused by changes in your spine anatomy.

 

How to prevent Neck and Back pain?

Now that you have a better understand of the cause of back and neck pain. For treatments, we recommend you seek professional help, especially if the pain is acute. For milder cases, you can try the best practices below. You also should listen to your body, because there is a chance you are neglecting your body’s needs and wants.

If you haven’t experienced these types of pain, or it hasn’t caused severe impact on your life, such as productivity reduction, depression, nerve damage, weight gain, etc, there may still be time to look into preventions. Some preventive measures include:

  • Practice good lifting techniques, or avoid heavy lifting if possible
  • Exercise. Focus on back-strengthening exercises to build up your back area muscles
  • Practice your flexibility, e.g., yoga
  • Maintain a balance BMI (your body mass index)
  • Reduce mental stress, which can cause muscle tensions
  • Ensure Vitamin-D intake for stronger bones
  • Maintain good posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping
  • Properly use telephones, computers, and other equipment
  • Make use of ergonomics equipments

 

How switching between sitting and standing is good for neck and back pain?

 

1.It reminds you to be aware of your posture

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Work standing up is good for back and neck pain because it reminds you to be aware of your posture. Posture may only be one reason in the list of causes, but it is the most likely cause. It is a habit to maintain a good posture, and we all know the power of good habit over the long run. In particular, you may choose to lift a heavy sofa or not, but you cannot choose whether to have a posture or not, it is either good or bad posture.

Every time you press that button to sit down or stand up, not only does the sit-stand desk changes its preset for you, you also reset yourself. The small position change that happens within seconds, maybe you barely notice, is the signal for you to double-check your posture. They are also counted as small movements, which adds up to bigger calories burn in the long run. Did you also know that being fidgety is what keeps the lean from the non-lean? In short, small habits make big changes.

Related article: how often should you switch between sitting and standing at work?

 

2.It adjusts to your personalized height

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As a kid, you already noticed your classmates having different heights. Growing up, it is becoming less and less of a thing to celebrate. But it doesn’t mean it the height differences don’t exist. However, most desks are made at the fixed same height. It is not good for your ergonomics if you are a lower or higher than the “factory-made model”.

In this case, working standing up is good for your back and neck pain because it gives you the ability to personalize the workstation height to your body features. When your ergonomic health is ensured, fewer tensions is put on your shoulders, thus possibly relieving the pain.

Related article: See how height your desk and chair (when you sit) should be for your height?

 

3.It gives you room for small movements

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Working standing up is good for back and neck pain because it gives you more room for small movements. Not that a standing work station is bigger than a fixed sitting work station. But the fact that you can stand on your feet gives you the freedom to decide what to do with them, e.i., walk around, stretch, do sit-ups, etc. You may argue that small movements are also made when you sit, for example, moving your feet around, switching your sitting positions, or stretching your arms, etc. Correct, those are small movements. The only difference a standing desk can make is to help making those movements easier and more frequent.

How do small movements when working standing up is good for back and neck pain? If we go back to the beginning of this article, where we talk about the causes of back and neck pain, which includes changes built over time in your spine anatomy. When you move around more, even just a little, you break the physical inactivity pattern, and reduces the tension on your muscles.

Conclusion
Disclaimer: this is not a medical article. You should not review this as a treatment to any pain you have.

With the aid of a sit-stand work desk, working standing up is good for back and neck pain because it reminds you to be aware of your posture, adjusting to your exact height and allow you room for small movements. Let us know what your thoughts in the comment below, and if you are interested in other similar topics?

Sources:

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/back-pain

https://www.healthline.com/health/lower-back-pain-treatment-options#exercise

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