As a hub of creative agencies, startups, and other companies on the leading edge of workplace design and employee wellness initiatives, Portland features its fair share of standing desks at the office. The evidence is definitely in – standing desks show many health benefits and help combat the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. But there can be danger in transitioning too quickly to standing all day or not preparing your space properly. Injuries like foot pain, knee pain, hip pain, neck pain, headaches from eye strain, and more are a real danger if one is not prepared.
The Science of Standing Desks and Workplace Ergonomics
The primary reason people get standing desks or get professional ergonomic assessments is to combat the health risks of sitting all day long. Multiple recent studies found that a sedentary lifestyle carries more serious and fatal dangers than previously thought, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and other ailments. To reverse the health effects of sitting eight hours in a desk chair while staring at a computer, many workers have installed makeshift or specially designed desks to work in a standing position.
In studies of workers who use standing desks, the results have been impressive. Not staying in one position during the workday increases your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, often considered the “good” cholesterol because of how it removes bad cholesterol from the body as it moves through the bloodstream, reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease. The use of a standing desk has also been connected to an increased resting heart rate of up to 8 beats per minute, and qualitative experiences of mood boosts and increased productivity.
Of course, for every miracle story about standing desks, you can find an account about why standing desks resulted in all kinds of health problems rather than solving any. The primary reason for these conflicting accounts is that many people misunderstand the utility of a standing desk. As any physician will tell you, being on your feet for your entire workday is no better than being in your chair all that time. The corresponding health effects reported by nurses, teachers, construction workers, and those in other professions that require being on your feet all day attest to this. These can include varicose veins, poor circulation, joint damage, heart issues, swelling, other foot problems, and even complications with pregnancy.
What Common Standing Desk Injuries Look Like
If you made the mistake of transitioning too quickly to a standing desk or not setting up your standing desk for good posture, you might experience a host of different health issues, including:
- Joint pain from standing too long
- Back pain, especially “lumbago” in the lower lumbar area, from standing too long or with bad posture, like hunching forward or putting weight on one hip
- Neck pain from looking down at screens that aren’t at eye level
- Headaches from eyestrain due to looking at screens that are too close
- Numbness in legs or feet, typically from hyperextending or locking knees and putting pressure on the fibular nerve
- Heel spurs or plantar fasciitis from standing too long without moving your feet
- Achilles tendonitis from standing too long
- Swelling in the ankles from improper circulation
- Wrist and hand pain from a keyboard positioned at the wrong height (often diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome)
Back and joint pain is two of the more common complaints from people who jumped too quickly into standing at work, as this puts lots of stress on your back, hips, knees, and ankles. Eighty percent of people are expected to develop some kind of back pain during their lives, and using your standing desk too much or incorrectly can exacerbate existing pain or create a new problem on its own.
Increased headaches are also common. If you spend all day on the computer, you’ve likely experienced headaches from eye strain before, but a standing desk with your screen at the wrong level can increase your risk of headaches as it puts your neck at an unnatural angle for long periods of time, affecting circulation.
How Do I Treat an Injury or Condition Brought On By Using a Standing Desk?
Generally, any issues arising from not using your standing desk properly can be addressed and treated at a GoHealth Urgent Care center by one of our knowledgeable medical professionals. With centers throughout Portland and Vancouver and convenient hours, you can easily stop in at lunch or after work for some treatment. Working at a standing desk is one of many other causes that will bring you to Urgent care for back pain.
When you come in for a visit, we will be able to see you right away. We will start by asking you some questions about your general level of health, physical activity, posture, and typical movements at your standing desk, and whether you transitioned into the standing desk properly or are using a combination of sitting and standing throughout the day. We will then conduct a physical exam and examine the condition you want to be treated for. After performing a physical examination, an urgent care physician can recommend or prescribe medications and treatments to control the chronic pain and help you enjoy your life once more, including over-the-counter or prescription medications for pain or tension headaches, and in some more severe cases, physical therapy, a service offered in-house at our Gresham location.
The standing desk revolution might better be named the “make sure you move around at work and don’t stay sitting or standing for too long” revolution. Don’t let ideas of having to stand all day long or that non-traditional desks are only for certain types of offices stop you from experimenting with changing your relationship with your desk and your chair. After all, if you give it a try and end up with concerns about a health condition, you can walk into any GoHealth Urgent Care in Portland and we’ll help you get it right.