If you spend long hours sitting at a desk all day, we feel your pain. It is common knowledge that sitting all day is not good for your health. In fact, some have been heard saying “sitting is the new smoking.” Why? Because the negative effects of sitting all day have been associated with raising the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It can also cause pain in joints and other parts of the body like the neck, mid and lower back (lower back pain), shoulders and jaw. It can also cause digestive issues and headaches. A recent study by the American Cancer Society found that women spending six hours or more per day of their free time sitting, have a ten percent greater risk of getting cancer than women spending less than three hours a day sitting. That is a pretty shocking statistic.
Even in the very short term, sitting all day can negatively affect our happiness and overall mood. Sitting in a slouched position can cause negative thoughts and even bring back negative memories. Sitting in an upright position though, encourages empowering thoughts and memories. Changing your posture can even change your mood.
When You Can’t Stand the Pain
There are five main contributing factors to pain at the workplace. Each can be adjusted to alleviate the pain associated with having a desk job. First, we will talk about the keyboard. It may seem insignificant, but your keyboard positioning can contribute to discomfort at the desk. The standard desk height is simply too high for the vast majority of the workforce. This results in a chair position that is too high and shrugged shoulders. Even worse, the tendency is to lean forward which can also cause lower back pain.
The desired position for the keyboard is on your lap with relaxed shoulders. Wrists should be straight, and palms supported. By bringing the keyboard closer to your body, you can shift some weight to the back of your chair and result in increased comfort. If you must keep your keyboard on your desk, try using a palm support. Usually, these sit in front of the keyboard and give your wrist and arm more support when typing. The goal is to keep your wrists as straight as possible.
The mouse, even though small, can be a factor in the pains you feel working at a desk. Improper handling of the mouse can lead to pain and even carpal tunnel. Investing in a mouse designed to include palm support will keep your wrist straight allowing movement through the lower arm and shoulder.
The position of the monitor can also be a big contributing factor in the pain felt while working at a desk. The best way to fix your monitor’s position is to adjust it so that it is at least an arm’s length away. Most position their monitors too high. The top line of text should be at or just slightly below eye level. You should also angle the monitor slightly away from the body.
This next factor may not be so obvious because we don’t hold it or sit on it but the lighting we have at our desk can affect how we work and the pain we feel as a result. A desk light is imperative for viewing hard copy documents because it can help reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome. Computer vision syndrome causes eyestrain, eye fatigue, dry eyes, light sensitivity, blurred vision and headaches. In order to take care of our eyes while in the workplace, choose a light that has an arm you can adjust. Position the light opposite the hand you write with and shine it on whatever hard copy document you are viewing.
To Sit or Not to Sit
Lastly, we need to mention the position chosen to work. To sit or not to sit, that is the question. As mentioned at the outset, there is mounting evidence that the traditional sitting position causes many health-related issues. There is an alternative position that is proving to be a healthier alternative. Standing increases productivity and reduces the number of breaks during the day. Those who choose to sit take an average of forty-seven percent more breaks and the length of the breaks are fifty-six percent longer than those who use standing desks. Because of the evidence standing employees spend more time at their desks, employers are making standing desks more available to their employees.
How to Ease Pain with a Standing Desk
Instead of changing your setup overnight, gradually transition by increasing the amount of time you stand each day and decreasing the amount of time you sit. This will help your body ease into using your standing desk regularly. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you. This is true of a standing desk as well. If you don’t have the resources to have two desks, there are DIY sit-stand desks where you can create a versatile workspace.
If you would like to relieve neck and back pain with a standing desk, you will need to make some adjustments. First off, adjust the monitor to be eye level. This can be done with a stand or a box. If you use a laptop, use a separate keyboard and keep the laptop at eye level. Footwear is also important. Having the right supportive footwear can prevent pain in your feet, legs and back.
Overall, sitting less and standing more is a really important lifestyle change. Standing desks can help you alleviate many of the aches and pains associated with a desk job. While it may be tempting to jump right in and stand all day at work, it is important to gradually transition to standing. When you have transitioned successfully, you should still switch between sitting and standing throughout the day. If you do this, you will begin to feel some much-needed relief of pain associated with sitting at a desk all day.