In a recent article by NYTimes Well Blog, a study on standing at work is cited to have little more results in caloric burn than sitting.
Some other thoughts to consider before switching to a standing desk regard postural issues. I see a lot of clients with occupations that require long hours at a computer workstation. While not everyone experiences pain and discomfort from this occupational situation, it’s more common than not to experience upper back, neck and shoulder pain and discomfort at some point in your professional life in these careers. By the time people arrive at my office for a session, they are usually at a point of experiencing these symptoms on the higher end of the pain spectrum, say 7’s to 10’s, and often speak of exquisite, localized pain. This is the pain associated with trigger points, aka “knots”.
The main culprit? Postural dysfunction. Specifically, upper body postural issues. Sustained time at a computer monitor causes us to have a forward-leaning posture. This puts strain and pressure on our cervical vertebrae and occipital joints. It also limits our shoulder girdle range-of-motion, causing our upper back/shoulder mover muscles to be over-stretched, limiting their contractile strength.The over-stretching over long periods of leaning/looking forward weakens our large, upper back shoulder-retractor muscles. Our smaller, stabilizing rotator cuff muscles become responsible for a greater portion of shoulder mobility – especially when it comes to smaller movements such as mousing and typing. Our big mover muscles and upper back are fixed, and our smaller rotator cuff muscles are working overtime. The result? Repetitive Stress Injury, Trigger Points, and/or Myofascial Pain.
My thoughts about switching to a standing desk – which comes up with clients in my office – is that it does not adequately address this forward-leaning posture. Much of the myofascial pain and disfunction, and the stress on the joints (particularly the C7-T1 and the Atlanto-Occipital joints) will not be alleviated in the switch from sitting to standing, so long as sustained time-frames and ergonomic factors aren’t properly addressed.
The takeaway, for me at least, is not whether sitting or standing make for a better workstation. It’s that we must address two things: One: The sustained amount of time we spend at our computers; and Two: the unique ergonomic needs of each individual at his/her desk. The latter can be addressed with the help of an ergonomic specialist. And the former? it’s all up to you.
Easier said than done, you say.
Okay, so your office might not be equipped to hire an ergonomic specialist. Or you might work from home, or be self-employed, so that option might be too costly. Or you get so mentally consumed and focused on your work that you forget three hours have passed. All those things are realities, and they are legitimate ones.
Try starting with small experiments for ways to work movement breaks into your workday. Set an alarm. Look for an app that might freeze your workstation for a set amount of time at various intervals during the day. Drink lots of fluids so that you will need to get up and use the restroom. For phone calls, use a hands-free device for walking-and-talking. Recently a client of mine, who happened to work at a large campus, mentioned how she began to schedule her meetings at the others’ office, so she could have a reason to get up and walk around. Seemed to work for her. Find things that work for YOU within the confines of your unique workplace environment.
In the end? Living, working, and playing with myofascial pain is no fun, and something CAN be done about it.
And, if you are experiencing muscular discomfort, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I am here to help. Who knows, a little TLC on those trigger points might just spurn a whole new plan of action!