The pain with working at a desk
This is a very interesting article (posted on the ABC website) about the impact of sitting on our health and body. It’s important to change position throughout the day to avoid aches and pains; and a build up of fats and sugars in your blood. As a Physiotherapist, it is common to see body aches and pains related to desk jobs.
It is especially important if you have a desk job to carry out the minimum recommended weekly exercise to enhance your health and well being.
Standing desks: Spending more time on your feet doesn’t have to mean back pain or sore legs
By now you have probably heard too much sitting can be deadly. A significant and growing body of research shows clear links between sitting time and increased risk of a range of chronic diseases and premature death.
While there is ongoing debate about whether exercise can help to reduce the impact of sitting, the truth is most of us aren’t doing enough exercise.
So we’re being encouraged to try to stand more while doing desk work.
It’s an issue some employers seem to be addressing, with a growing trend for workplaces to provide staff with variable-height standing desks to allow them to do computer and other desk-based work out of the chair.
But other workers are taking matters into their own hands — improvising through creative use of boxes or other contraptions to raise their work surface.
Apart from the longer-term health benefits — standing helps prevent a harmful build-up of sugars and fats in your blood — workers who stand more often say they have better energy levels and concentration.
It can also help you manage your weight; standing uses around 13 per cent more energy over the course of an eight-hour day, says Dr Dunstan, who is head of physical activity at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.
So accumulating four hours standing would burn energy equivalent to a 45-minute walk.
But standing can be hard on your body if you’re not used to it.
Here are some tips to take some pain out of the experience for sit-stand novices.
Don’t try to stand all day
“This is the most important thing. It’s not one or the other,” Dr Dunstan said.
“Frequent transitions between sitting and standing [and vice versa] are likely to be more sustainable than five hours straight standing.”
Physiotherapist Melinda Luck, who helps many people with issues relating to sedentary work, agreed.
When we sit for long periods, the top half of the body tends to be the focus for pain and discomfort, she said.
“When we stand [for too long] it’s the bottom half — the lower back and the knees. So mixing it up is the go.”
Ms Luck advises standing for three minutes, three times an hour, while Dr Dunstan suggests trying to build up to a half-hour sitting and a half-hour standing throughout the day (you can use timers and phone apps as reminders).
“It’s what works for you,” Sydney University sitting researcher Dr Josephine Chau said.
“You need to listen to your body and if your colleague can stand an hour at a time but that’s tiring for you, you need to pull back a bit.
“And if you’ve got an existing injury, you need to be mindful of that.”
Get your posture right
- feet shoulder width apart
- your rib cage above your hips so you aren’t leaning forward or backward
- your knees straight but not ‘locked’ (some very flexible people tighten their knees so they are bent back too far in the wrong direction causing strain on their lower back and pelvis, Ms Luck said)
- shoulders neither hunched forward nor too far back. A good way to do this is to “pull them up and back about a millimetre. It’s just a tiny movement that makes the lower shoulder blade muscles work,” she adds.
“It’s quite tricky to get it all balanced. When people think ‘I’ll just stand’, it can be fraught,” Ms Luck said.
Dr Chau adds that if focusing on correct posture is new to you, “check in with yourself every half hour” to make sure you haven’t slumped out of alignment.
The goal is not to stay still like a statue, but rather to incorporate small movements as much as possible. “The best posture is the next posture” is a good mantra to keep in mind, Dr Chau said.
Ms Luck added: “Don’t just stand there. Go up and down on your toes six to eight times and maybe do some shoulder rolls to release any tension. Walk around whenever you can.”
While leaning to one side for long periods is not recommended, a bit of fidgeting to take continuous pressure of your limbs is good.
Dr Dunstan keeps a small platform under his desk where he can rest one leg to take the load off it.
“When you stand, you have greater potential to move as opposed to sitting,” he said.
Wear the right shoes (or none)
Some people find they need different shoes when spending more time on their feet. This might mean they need to wear joggers, or even bare feet.
Standing too long in heels for instance can cause women to have problems in their knees, hips and back.
Women worried about looking too casual could keep some dressier shoes to slip into for occasions when needed, Dr Chau said.
Get your ergonomics sorted
Just because you’re working upright doesn’t mean the normal advice about correct positioning of your computer screen and keyboard go out the window. Whatever your setup, make sure the alignment is still right
Consider an anti-fatigue mat
If you are spending a chunk of your day standing, a harder surface underfoot — even carpet over a concrete floor — can become tiring.
Standing on an anti-fatigue mat can absorb some of the pressure.
But they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
“Some people really love them and some people just don’t care for them,” Dr Chau said.
Dr Dunstan, who is a fan, added: “I reckon the best thing to do is to give one a try. I love mine and I miss it when I don’t have it.”
Remember other activity still matters
Standing does not replace the need for regular exercise, but is something that should be done as well as your other activity. (At least 150 minutes a week of exercise at moderate intensity, where you can talk but not sing, is recommended. Something as simple as brisk walking is fine).
And it is recommended you get up as much as you can, whenever you are not using your computer for typing.
“Some people don’t like sit stand desks but really like going for a walk around the office,” Dr Chau said.
Get any existing injuries sorted before standing more
If you can transition to standing more gradually and you are aware of the right way to stand, working up to four hours a day on your feet is entirely achievable for most people, Ms Luck said.
But “if you’ve had niggling back or neck issues that you’ve put off doing anything about, and then you transition to more standing, that would be the time to see a physio to get them checked out.”
Standing: some facts
- One recent large study found that sitting time accounts for 7 per cent of all deaths aged 45 and older.
- When we sit, our leg and trunk muscles are inactive, leading to a buildup of sugars and fats in our blood.
- Advice to break up sitting time with activity and even just standing (which still uses more muscles than sitting) is part of Australia’s physical activity guidelines.
- And in June this year, UK guidelines were released recommending desk-based office workers spend at least two hours of their working day standing or moving and to gradually progress to four hours.
- However research suggests even motivated people are still managing to stand on average for a total of around 90 minutes a day.
The original article by Cathy Johnson can be found here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-04/tips-for-working-at-a-standing-desk/6908666