Friday's Findings: Standing Desks


Standing desks are all the rage now, and for good reason. The most common injury/complaint that I see walk into my office on a daily basis is the "flexion-intolerant low back," which sitting is often the main culprit. What does this mean?

Think of flexion as bending or "flexing" forward to touch our toes and extension as doing the opposite, a backward bend. Which one do you believe you do more of any given day? Overwhelmingly, it's flexion. Interestingly, when we sit our low back's are in a mild state of flexion unless you sit with appropriate lumbar (low back) support.

Here's a snapshot of the typical American workday: 

  • Get up in the morning and have breakfast (hopefully) -- sit. 
  • Drive to work - sit 
  • Work - sit
  • Lunch - sit 
  • Work some more - sit 
  • Drive home from work - sit 
  • Relax after work - you get the point!

That's a lot of sitting! Research shows that our spines are it a state of flexion over 90% of the day, moving into in extension -- past neutral -- less than 5% of the day. Regardless of structural anatomy, logic can understand why flexion-intolerant low-backs are of most significance. 

I came across this article, and it seems the use of standing desks has many more benefits than you have come to believe. Because low back pain is the second most common reason people go to see their doctor, after the common cold, and it's estimated we spend over $100 billion a year on the treatment of back pain in the U.S. alone, let us discuss how standing desks help our back pain...

We stand in extension!

Now, don't get me wrong, extension is not for everyone -- there is no one-size-fits-all solution -- but it's safe to say for the overwhleming majority of the population. More standing and less sitting are not only critical for prevention but essential for those that have previously suffered from low back pain. 

I use a standing desk in my office, and I absolutely love it. If you don't have the option to get rid of that lame seated desk, check this one out as it's likely your best bet. I haven't used it but have been told it works very well. Can't do that either? Get one of these or kneel at your desk. Kneeling forces you to be in a neutral spinal position with the bonus of some mild functional core stability training. Contrary to popular belief, the blue ball does not train your core any more than sitting in a chair, and without a backrest most tend to slouch anyway.

Bottom Line:
Standing desks are not just a bunch of hype. Back pain sucks, and you can prevent the debilitating kind with simple posture awareness, proper lifting mechanics, and sitting so damn much!

Here are a few additional strategies to mitigate and prevent low back pain:

  • Drink lots of water -- you'll be hydrated which is healthy, and it will make you have to get up out of your chair to use the john.
  • When you stand up, do this.
  • Already have sitting discomfort? Try this one.
This piece was meant to be informative and quite helpful for the majority of the population. If you or someone else you know is dealing with intense back pain that may be traveling down the leg(s), limiting their activity, and/or has been experiencing such pain for more than three months, it's important to be mechanically evaluated by a qualified conservative care (McKenzie) professional.
Shoot me an email if you have any questions! Also, appointments can be booked online 24/7.
Treating patients on a daily basis, I frequently address questions regarding nutrition, lifestyle, and "how do I now stay out of pain," questions. In our technology age, there's instant access to vast quantities -- not always quality -- of information, but so little time. Friday's Findings offers access to quality information, in small, weekly doses, so you can make the little changes that make a significant impact, without having to sift through all the mumbo-jumbo. I believe you'll find value. To maintain relevancy to you, please, email me with suggestions for future topics. Thank you and enjoy the weekend!

- RJ Burr, D.C.
Copyright © 2016 OmniKinetics, All rights reserved.

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