Is a Standing Desk Good for Back Pain?

Tyson Sewell | Last updated Aug 4, 2022 | Published on Apr 15, 2022

If you suffer from back pain, or even if you know someone who does, you know how debilitating it can be. So it’s no wonder you might be curious, or perhaps even a little dubious about how standing desks can help.

Standing desks have a host of established health benefits, but some find it counter intuitive to believe that standing could be beneficial to back pain.

So can a sit stand desk be good for back pain, and if so, why?

Standing desk good for back pain

This article aims to answer that very question, and demonstrate how the proper use of a standing desk can aid and prevent future back pain. Read on to find out exactly how and why standing desks can help in the fight against poor posture, back pain, and a whole host besides.

Do Standing Desks Help Back Pain?

Yes, standing desks can help with back pain, in a number of ways. One of the major causes of back pain is poor posture, and one of the major causes of poor posture is the slouched position that many of us adopt when we work in an office chair.

We will dig deeper into this later in this article, but for now it should be enough to explain that one of the key benefits of sit stand desks is that they allow us to change from this position during the day.

Standing helps to strengthen the core and postural muscles, which support the back and help us maintain proper posture. Developing these muscles over time, and always being mindful of our posture and positioning at our workstation whether sitting or standing, is the best defense against back pain.

Woman in the office over worked with back pain from sitting all day

Is Standing Or Sitting Better For Your Back?

Neither standing or sitting is better for your back if you do either for prolonged periods. Both can be beneficial though if kept in the right balance. Sitting allows you to take the weight off your back muscles, but only if you choose a good ergonomic chair, and are mindful of your positioning – we will go into more detail later.

However, sitting for too long, especially with bad posture, can actually place extra strain on the lower back. Even with proper lumbar support and positioning, it’s never ideal to stay in the same position for too long.

Standing can also be very beneficial to your back helping to strengthen the core and postural muscles which support your body weight throughout the day. However, standing for too long will place strain on your back as it will have to support the weight of your body, and can lead to foot pain. And if you stand for too long with the wrong body posture, this will only serve to exacerbate any strains.

Read also -> Is It better to work standing or sitting

Does Standing Help Strengthen Your Back?

Yes, standing does help strengthen your back, which in turn can aid or prevent back pain. Using a height adjustable desk to build standing in to your routine can work wonders in alleviating the back and neck pain that for so long people had accepted as a consequence of the desk job.

The simple act of standing upright means that your core, postural and back muscles are all working to keep you from falling over. These tiny movements, over time, will strengthen your back muscles and help keep you free from pain and injury. Used properly and with the right balance, a sit stand desk can help keep you free from back pain.

Is Standing Better Than Sitting For Lower Back Pain?

Yes, standing is better than sitting for lower back pain: but too much standing might make the problem worse. Sitting in a poor seated posture is one of the number one causes of back pain, and extended periods in a slouched position can in time lock this position in place, meaning the muscles in your back contract and it can become hard to maintain healthy posture.

Standing can help strengthen the back, but extended periods standing could place undue strain on the back and lead to back pain too. So it’s not really a case of standing versus sitting – alternating between the two positions regularly is the best way of giving your back a workout, and a much deserved rest.

Maintaining the correct position at your stand up desk, and being mindful of your posture are key, as we will explain later in this piece. Standing the right amount can actually reduce pain and improve posture.

Overworked woman having lower back pain

Can Sitting At A Desk Cause Lower Back Pain?

Sitting at a desk can cause lower back pain, if you don’t change your position frequently and take breaks. Excessive sitting is bad for your back for the following reasons:

Poor Seated Posture

Sitting in the wrong position lead can lead to curvature of the spine, and place strain on the lower back as you slouch and stoop forwards.

Pinched Nerves

Sitting in the same position for extended periods places a lot of pressure on the back of the body, compressing and contracting the muscles in the back and pinching nerves in the process.

This can trigger back pain, sciatic nerve pain, neck pain and range of other ailments.

Muscle Wastage

Like any other muscle, the muscles in your lower back, core and hips will waste if not used – and sitting still for long periods is about as inactive as they can get. This makes you much more prone to strains, pulls and twisting injuries, as the muscles which support your back become too weak to help.

Weight Gain

Sitting too much is directly linked to weight gain, as the metabolism slows and the body finds it harder to burn calories. Being overweight is predictably enough linked to back pain, as the body strains to support the extra weight it is being asked to carry.

Marketing research staff stuck on her chair full day

Is Standing Bad For Lower Back Pain?

Standing for long periods can also be bad for your lower back, and can result in range of different injuries and ailments, including:

Aches And Strains

Standing for a long time can cause aches and strains, the result of the extra force applied to your muscles. Fatigue will also make your muscles more likely to tear and leave you more prone to twisting injuries.

Sprains And Stretched Ligaments

Tired muscle does a worse job of supporting your ligaments, which in turn leaves them vulnerable to stretching and resultant injury.

Spinal Stenosis

The compressing and contracting of the back can result in a condition known as spinal stenosis, when the narrowing of spaces in the spine causes pressure on the nerves, along with a lot of pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is caused when the pressure on the discs between vertebrae makes them break down, decreasing the space between the vertebrae and irritating the surrounding nerves.

How Do I Stop My Standing Desk From Hurting My Back?

Get Your Standing Position Right

Assuming the correct position at your standing desk allows you to type without straining the lower back, reducing wrist pain and strain on the neck. This will help reduce tension in your upper body as a whole, and ease strain on the lower back. It also ‘forces’ you to remain in a good standing posture, which will develop your core and postural muscles in exactly the right way.

Assume A Good Standing Posture

Before setting the height of your desk, first assume a good posture: you want to be sure you’re standing right before you raise the standing desk. Stand with your back straight and your shoulders back, with your head level and in line with your body. Pull in your abdomen, tilt your hips forward slightly, and keep your feet shoulder-width apart.

Set Your Standing Desk Height

Then stand with your arms straight down by your side, and bend them at 90 degrees so they are straight out in front. You want your standing desk raised to the level where you arms are flat with the desktop, and just slightly above, with your hands positioned right above your keyboard so your fingers rest on the keys comfortably.

Tip: choosing an electric standing desk which allows you to save presets means you only need set your desk height once!

Position Yourself (And Your Keyboard)

Office table setup

You want to be standing as close to your standing desk as possible, with your feet under the desk and your hands and fingers reaching the keyboard easily with no leaning or twisting.

Position Your Monitor

Now you need to make sure your monitor is at the right level. Maintaining your posture, position the monitor so your eyes are level with just below the top of the screen, so you can see the whole screen easily without needing to lower your head or stoop.

Wear Supportive Shoes

A good pair of shoes, that support your ankles and cushion your feet, will reduce any impact on your lower back and spine. This will go along way to saving you from strains, ligament and twisting injuries, and and make your days more comfortable.

Use An Anti Fatigue Mat

Anti fatigue mats can take up the slack if you prefer to work sans shoes or provide any extra layer of protection and comfort when standing.

Get Your Seated Position Right

The same basic rules apply hear. You want to set your standing desk at an appropriate height that allows you to sit comfortably with your feet on the floor (or a foot rest), with your arms again flat by your side, bent at right angle at the elbow, but this time of course you’re sat and not stood upright.

You should be close enough into your desk that your finger hover over the keys without straining. In order to achieve the right position though, you’ll need an ergonomic, height adjustable chair.

Use An Ergonomic Chair

For the periods where you’ll be sitting, you need a well designed ergonomic chair. Ergonomic chairs support the lower back, lumbar region and upper back and neck, which is crucial to save yourself from back pain.

A good ergonomic chair will have a range of adjustable parameters, allowing you to find the best possible position relative to your desk when sitting.

Change Position Frequently

We can’t stress this strongly enough, and if you haven’t already picked up on this: neither sitting nor standing the whole time is going to do your back any good. The real beauty of a sit stand desk is that it allows you to do both, or more to the point, to change easily between both.

This is important because it means you can easily transition without losing a beat when working, which is important if you’re realistically going to get the best from your desk.

You should aim to spend around 15 min of every hour standing at first, and try to build on this slowly over time. If you find a level that’s too much, then it’s time to listen to your body and dial it in a little.

The important thing is to not spend too long in either position, to allow your muscles to work, alleviate the compression in your back, and keep the rest of your body strong (and injury free) to help support your weight.

Businessman at his desk taking short movement breaks

Take Frequent Movement Breaks

Every couple of hours, it’s important to get away from your desk and indulge in some light physical activity. This is important to prevent fatigue, rest your eyes, and to get your joints moving and relieve any tension. It’s also a great time to stretch and loosen up, and will reduce the strain on your lower back by lowering the tension through the entire body.

Should You Use A Standing Desk All Day?

It’s fine to use a standing desk all day but you should heed the advice above, make sure you use it correctly, and be sure to vary your position regularly throughout the day. Learning and locking in your optimum positions for both sitting and standing is the first step.

Then you need to develop the discipline to stand for around 15 mins of each hour, and remember to never spend too long in any one position. By following this advice, there’s no reason you should experience back pain when using your standing desk. In fact, using a standing desk could help develop your core and postural muscles, strengthen your back, and help protect from back pain in the future.

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About The Author

Tyson Sewell

Tyson Sewell

I’m Tyson and I design furniture. More specifically, I design ergonomic furniture intended to improve the comfort and aesthetics of sit stand desks, ergonomic chairs and accessories.
You may learn more about my story by reading my bio here. Have a productive day!