I think it’s a fantastic idea. It’s less pressure on the discs of the low back and encourages core strength. Humans are not meant to sit for long periods. Also, standing naturally encourages more movement. I do think that it presents some challenges, especially if one is standing in one spot for a long period, the blood and lymph will tend to pool in the legs, causing swelling and discomfort. The feet are of course going to feel more tired. So in addition to the ergonomics outlined below for the head, shoulders, elbows and wrists; standing ergonomics should also include a softer standing surface that eases foot pain. Standing on a slightly unstable surface such a balance mat will make your back feel great.
Why not sit at a desk?
Sitting at a desk for hours in a poor chair is asking for back pain. I would say that back muscle spasm due to extended sitting either at a desk or in a car is the root of back pain in about 20-30 of my acute low back patients. The psoas (silent “p”) muscle is often the culprit. It attaches to the front of the low back spine, the front of the pelvis and the medial femur. A psoas spasm usually causes severe low back pain or groin pain. If, say, only the left psoas is in spasm it can wrench the spine, pelvis and hip to that side, exacerbating the problem.
Sitting for extended periods with poor posture will also cause increased pressure on spinal discs. Under prolonged or intense pressure the tough exterior of the disc can weaken and bulge like balloon that is being pushed from one side. A weakened disc can also rupture, spilling its internal contents into the surrounding tissue. A disc bulge or ruptured disc tissue can press on nerves causing extreme pain and loss of function. Although these injuries are quite severe, surgery should not be the first choice. Discs can heal with proper care. A disc bulge takes about 6 weeks to heal using the Cox chiropractic technique. For a ruptured disc, the body will eventually eliminate the ruptured tissue, however this may take years. Those with one disc injury are likely to have more. To avoid disc problems, sit properly or avoid sitting if possible, drink plenty of water, get good nutrition, and move and stretch for 5 minutes out of every hour and get the spine aligned regularly via chiropractic care.
General Ergonomic Guidelines:
- Screen should be at eye level and directly in front of your eyes
- Elbows should be at 90 degrees with elbows supported by armrests
- If seated, knees should be bent at 90 degrees, a foot rest may be necessary
- If seated, sit all the way back in the chair with your seat tilted slightly forward.
- If seated, don't sit for more than 45 minutes at a time. Get up and walk around and stretch every hour.