Are Standing Desks Really Better for Your Back?
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Are Standing Desks Really Better for Your Back?

Those prone to pain might get more relief if they invest in these accessories—from anti-fatigue mats to a posture monitor.

By Sal Vaglica
Thu, Feb 10, 2022Grey Clock 3 min

Doctors, no fans of sedentary lifestyles, rarely encourage anyone—especially those with back pain—to spend all day sitting. A standing desk can help avert aching muscles if you use it correctly, get off your feet and move at regular intervals and—here’s where we come in—consider investing in the right ergonomic accessories. If you insist on slouching in high heels on a concrete floor for hours, we can’t help you.

A standing desk alone is a good start. In 2019, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined data from 53 independent, peer-reviewed studies and concluded that workers can experience a decrease in lower-back pain when using a standing desk. A year earlier, Dr. Elizabeth Garland, professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and her team published the results of a yearlong evaluation of users at standing and traditional desks. “The people who used the standing desk more had less back pain, more energy and took on more physical activity outside of work,” she said.

Jonathan Perez, a territory manager for a sporting goods supplier in Port St. Lucie, Fla., went further. Mr. Perez has mild scoliosis and bought a standing desk hoping it would help. Two years on, the pain persists, but a new routine has made it far more tolerable. “I bought an anti-fatigue mat, got my foot scanned at a running store to get sized for shoes and consulted a yoga instructor about core stretches,” he said. Those moves, along with a commitment to alternating between standing, sitting and using a foam roller on the floor to massage his back, have brought relief.

Lauren Scott, a digital marketing coordinator in Hawthorne, N.J., said using a standing desk consistently for five years eventually helped resolve sciatica pain. But when she stands, Ms. Scott doesn’t merely stay erect. A barefoot enthusiast, she plants her feet on a foam mat for comfort and uses a lacrosse ball and knobby rock mat to stretch them.

Without an ergonomic plan, standing can become uncomfortable, making it easy to default back to a chair. Some basic tips: Keep the desk’s top at elbow height so your fingers hang down to meet the keyboard. Stand straight so your neck is tall and shoulders are relaxed. Elevate the monitor so the top third of the screen is at eye level and close enough that you needn’t lean forward to read. As for how to split up your day, Dr. Garland likes the “20-8-2 rule” where you break 30-minute blocks up into 20 minutes for sitting, 8 for standing and 2 for walking.

But if you really want to ensure you’re standing up to back pain, consider these accessories.

Five Accessories That Can Take a Desk From Helpful to Really Helpful

Stand On Solid Principles

An anti-fatigue mat will take the sting out of standing on hard surfaces like concrete, hardwood and tile. While most mats look like the slabs of rubber or polyurethane foam that line cooks use, the Fluidstance Springboard looks at home in an office. The flexible plywood top, along with a 1-inch-thick felt base, provides enough cushion and bounce to reduce fatigue and encourage you to shift weight. $235, FluidStance.com

Mind the Slouch

If reminding yourself not to slouch feels like a full-time job, let the Upright Go S do it for you. Stick the tracker to the skin between your shoulder blades, or drape it over a shirt using the Necklace accessory ($20). When it detects hunching, a gentle vibration prompts you to straighten up. To avoid falling into that “evil-witch position,” consider an elevated monitor, said Dr. Charla R. Fischer, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Spine Center. $83UprightPose.com

Bare Your Tensions

A mat alternative: The sloped Sky Solutions Genius Mat can massage and stretch bare feet, thanks to a rollerball and acupressure-like nubs. “What we’re learning is the more time we can spend out of shoes the better,” said Dr. Brian Meenan, a chiropractor in Pittsburgh, of foot muscles that can go underdeveloped in shoes. If you go this route, gradually work up to spending about half your day sans shoes. $111, SkyMats.com

Look Up

You could pile books under a monitor to elevate it, or use the highly adjustable Uplift Desk Enfield Single Monitor Arm and reclaim desk space. The arm clamps to, or bolts through, the desktop, neatly corralling wires, and lets you tweak the screen’s position as you go from sitting to standing. (Laptop users need an arm designed to lift the computer to eye level, and should pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse.) $165, UpliftDesk.com

Invest in Smarter Sneakers

The best footwear for standing-desk adoptees is a sneaker that provides more cushion and support than a minimalist running shoe but not as much as a plush walking sneaker. Chiropractor Dr. Alex Tauberg, also based in Pittsburgh, often recommends a trail hiking or trail running shoe. “They have an athletic styling, a decent amount of cushion, and they’re supportive,” he said. The Altra Superior 5 is a “zero drop” shoe — the foot rests flat on the ground without the lifted heel — with a wide toe box that allows your dogs to splay out without bunching.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: February 9, 2022.

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Australia’s luxury residential market has advanced, it lacks the depth of prestige markets in more established global cities said Cieselski.

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