Movement is crucial for our existence! This guest post highlights movement in our work environment. This could be in a corporate environment, and also our home office. Stand up and be moved!
Sit to stand desks have become the latest thing to have in the modern office. They are not, however, the silver bullet for everyone. As with any product it is about the end user being educated as to why and how they work better for us as well as understanding what you should be looking for when investigating the sit to stand desk market.
There are two reasons why such desks work.
Fundamentally humans should not sit all day – we are not designed for it and it is not good for us. More importantly, we shouldn’t be staying in one position for too long – movement is key. Varying your position between sitting and standing on a regular basis brings some movement to your working environment.
Secondly, human proportions/measurements vary tremendously. The desk height norm of 720mm will not, therefore, suit everyone. In fact, from a survey undertaken by Ergostyle this standard height of 720mm suits very few – 90% of the surveyed people have a sitting elbow height of between 590 and 710mm. Additionally the standing height of some desks do not suit everybody. It is important that the height range of a desk is considered and ideally matched to the people using it.
Calculate your individual ideal height range as follows:
The desk height when sitting should be one finger width (approximately 2cm) below your elbow when sitting correctly in a height adjustable chair (feet flat on the floor and a 90 degree angle between the lower and upper leg)
The desk height when standing should again be one finger below your elbow when you are standing. The space allowed for below your elbow (when shoulders are relaxed) allows for your arms to swing easily over a keyboard without raising your shoulders.
Besides height, the other crucial consideration for a desk is the lift capacity. This not only affects directly the amount of weight the desk has been designed to take but also affects the ease with which the desk copes with the weight and thus the life of the lifting mechanism. A desk which has to carry a weight close to its capacity does not last as long as one where the weight easily falls within its capacity.
Additional features to look for in a sit to stand desk are its
Stability (how stable is the desk at its greatest height?)
Is the height displayed? (best practice under AS/NZS442:1997)
Is the control programmable or does it integrate with a computer?
Health professionals are trained to objectively analyse presenting signs and symptoms, in order to offer possible solutions to all manner of ‘conditions’. Today I have been exploring Posture, and the role it generally plays in our daily functional activities, and specifically, in chronic pain presentations.
Why is this interesting?
Because we need to be Positioned For Success!
The way we habitually hold ourselves influences all our movements and ultimately affects how we go about accomplishing our everyday activities – whether we are working, playing sport or a musical instrument, relaxing or sleeping.
I did a bit of research around the topic of being positioned for success by being Cognitively/Mindfully and Behaviourally aware of our posture, and the influences we could pay more attention to.
It has been observed that poor posture is widespread in the general population. It appears to be an adaptive, self- perpetuating trait that most people lack the cognitive ability or desire to correct by themselves. (2)
Studies have shown that people in occupations that include prolonged periods of sitting may experience a high incidence of Low Back Pain. (1)
Commonly adopted relaxed postures are often passive in nature with a predisposition to “sway” standing and slumped sitting which can exacerbate pain. (4)
Increased pain does not leave us positioned for success.
Recent studies conclude that
Forward head posture is the most common form of poor posture related to a multitude of myofascial pain disorders and cervical dysfunction. (2) This posture requires the person to flex the lower part of the neck forward and bend the upper portion of the neck backwards.
Adopting passive postures such as sway standing and slump sitting can exacerbate pain in individuals with low back pain. Lumbopelvic stabilising musculature is active in maintaining optimally aligned erect postures, and are less active during adoption of passive postures. The muscles of the lumbopelvic region become deactivated and deconditioned, which increases the load on the lumbar discs and ligaments which in turn could leave the lumbopelvic region vulnerable to strain, instability or injury. (4)
Back pain intensity and referred leg pain could be significantly reduced after sitting with a lordotic posture, demonstrating that a change in posture could have a positive effect on pain location. Centralisation (a change in distribution of referred symptoms from distal to a more central location) was brought about by certain lumbar movements and positioning. (1)
Erect postural alignment in weight bearing positively facilitated the stabilising muscles of the lumbopelvic region. (4) Immediately we are better positioned for success in performing our daily activities.
Postural Training (being Positioned for Success) works on the assumption that an optimally aligned skeletal system reduces stress in its structures. It is recommended as one of the Interdisciplinary treatment components of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for chronic pain.
It usually involves exercises performed repetitively to stretch structures that poor posture tends to shorten
Strengthens structures that poor posture tends to weaken
Creates awareness of desirable posture (2)
Cognitive Behavioural treatment methods have been applied to the most common chronic pain conditions. Posture correction in daily life, by its very nature, is considered Behavioural Therapy as the individual is required to continually monitor his / her improved conditioned posture for success. (2, 3)
These CBT Programmes usually involve multiple components, including
Information to increase knowledge and awareness of the factors influencing the nature and typical course of chronic pain conditions
Basics of pain physiology with the emphasis on chronic pain
Biomedical and bio-behavioural management of the condition
How to self-monitor the signs and symptoms of the condition
Cognitive and behavioural therapies aimed at increasing physical and functional activities and adaptive responses to pain
Skill training such as the use of relaxation, biofeedback, hypnosis and other self-control strategies to modify the perception of pain and related body sensations
Information on the relationship between muscle fatigue, muscle tension and the psycho-physiologic aspect of stress
Introduction to cognitive and behavioural pain and stress-coping strategies (3)
Instructions for Posture Correction to be positioned for success may include
Don’t slouch when sitting on a chair
Don’t sit with legs crossed
Don’t rest chin on hand
If sitting on the floor, sit upright by sitting on folded legs
My sitting posture may prevent me from being Positioned For Success
Rest weight on both feet evenly
Don’t lean against a wall
Sleep on a firm mattress
Sleep on your back
Keep your neck straight by supporting on a low pillow or flattened towel
Bring food to mouth without tilting head forward
Chew looking straight ahead, not downward
Walk with long even strides while swinging your arms
Don’t carry a heavy package with one hand
Don’t thrust head forward
With this information in mind, we could be more mindful to ensure we are better Positioned For Success, without compromising our Postural efficiency.
1. A comparison of the effects of two sitting postures on back and referred pain M M Williams, J A Hawley, R A McKenzie, P M van Wijmen Spine Vol 16, No 10, Oct 1991; 1185-1191
2. Usefulness of posture training for patients with temporomandibular disorders E F Wright, M A Domenech, J R Fischer Jr J Am Dent Assoc 2000; 131; 202-210
3. Posture correction as part of behavioural therapy in treatment of myofascial pain with limited opening O Komiyana, M Kawara, M Arai, T Asano, K Kobayashi J Oral Rehab May 1999; Vol 26; No 5;428-435
4. The effect of different standing and sitting postures on trunk muscle activity in a pain-free population P B O’Sullivan, K M Grahamslaw, M Kendell, S C Lapenskie, N E Moller, K V Richards Spine 2002; Vol 27; No 11; 1238-1244
Which strategies do you employ to ensure you are Positioned For Success?