To Sit or to Stand? That is the Question.

I frequently get asked about sit to stand desks and what benefits they may or may not have. The answer might surprise you. Read on to learn more.

September 4, 2019

Dr. Benjamin DeLuca, DC

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I frequently get asked about sit to stand desks and what benefits they may or may not have. The numbers for people with chronic low back pain is staggering. Just think about this, take 10 people you know and of those 10 how many presently have low back pain (LBP) or had it in the past. This is not a new problem and there are constantly new  products, hitting the market, with little success.

Unfortunately the solution will never be fixed with just one product, nor with the mindset that there is a product you need to buy or pill you need to take to fix yourself. LBP is layered issue comprised of multiple factors stress, nutrition, exercise, chemical, psychological, emotional, structural and yes sometimes even postural factors may contribute to LBP.  We are always looking for a quick fix to this epidemic, a fast, easy solution that will fix everything in one quick shot. Enter the sit to stand desk.

Before I go any deeper you should know that I feel a sit to stand desk may have several benefits for people, and can be used as a tool to promote more general movement throughout the day. I also don’t think that standing all day is more beneficial than sitting all day. When a person is statically existing in one position for too long problems can arise.

The concept of taking micro breaks periodically by getting up and moving about seems to have more benefit for the sedentary worker and may reduce symptoms for LBP. It’s  this aspect of the sit to stand desks I find beneficial. When an individual gets into the habit of mixing up the sit to stand ratio periodically throughout the day this behavior modification is where a the true value of a sit to stand desk can be realized.

For those of you who have ever been around a cat you will notice that they just randomly get up and stretch. Think of the sit stand desk a mechanism that encourages the human version of this behavior. Cats are not making a conscious decision to stretch they simply feel the urge to move and do it. In many circumstances we ignore these urges and just push through the day.

If you were to sit all day or stand all day in poor or perfect posture I think you would find similar issues with both. To clarify it maybe less about any one specific posture good or bad and more about introducing a variety of different positions throughout the day. If you alway stand with an arch in your back (anterior pelvic tilt) and start to stand in a neutral spine and brace your core you may notice a decrease in symptoms. Conversely if you stand in a neutral position all day and your periodically arch your back (10-15 times in a row) you also may find this palliative. In one scenario your moving from “bad” to “good” posture and in the other scenario your moving from “good” to bad posture. Simply put motion is the lotion.

I have seen both these scenarios and both these solutions to be palliative. There are multiple factors and debates on why one worked for one person and why one worked for another. In both scenarios the concept of micro breaks was introduced and I feel sit to stand desks provide people with more general daily movement options and anything that encourages this will likely be positive. I believe both people benefited from finding simple motions that could be used to break a chronic pain cycle. For more information about how to break it up and quick little resets, click here.

So can a sit to stand desk have a benefit for people with LBP? Yes. Could a sit to stand desk also potentially increase LBP? Yes. Does posture matter? Yes it matters when it matters.

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