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Standing desk makes your back hurt? A simple footrest could solve this problem

Posted May 20, 2019

Sitting is not healthy for you. It restricts blood flow to your legs, it strains your heart, it worsens your posture and gives you haemorrhoids. Standings desks are better, but for some people they become a source of lower back pain. But is there a solution? Scientists from the University of Waterloo found that a simple footrest by a standing desk can help prevent lower-back pain.

Standing desks can be better for your back, but lower back may suffer. Image credit: Angus McIntyre and Mattthew via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

More and more people work in offices. This means that people are more and more actively searching for ways to improve workplace ergonomics. Sitting on gymnastics balls, reclining tables, standing desks – all kinds of solutions are appearing every day. People may want to stand, because it helps with focus and alleviates problems associated with sitting for too long. However, a lot of them will experience lower back pain from standing many hours. Lifting one leg at a time seems to help with this problem, but can it be eliminated completely?

Scientists invited some people to participate in an experiment. Participants were asked to cyclically elevate one leg on a footrest intermittently for one minute, then put it on the ground for three minutes for almost an hour and half. Researchers found that out of 12 participants only one reported having a lower back pain. Scientists think that part of the success of this method could be due to promoting movement.

Participant in recent study uses footrest at a standing desk. Image credit: University of Waterloo

Participant in recent study uses footrest at a standing desk. Image credit: University of Waterloo

People typically stand by their desks completely immersed in their work. This leg lifting technique reminds people to move a little, which is probably what provides health benefits and prevents lower back pain. The best thing about it is that no expensive equipment is required – just a simple low-tech footrest can bring the same kind of benefits, promote movement and prevent lower back pain.

People are made to move. Sitting is bad, but standing is also not great. Previous studies have shown that staying in the same position for hours is what does the damage. Jack Callaghan, senior author of the study, said: “The big issue with moving to a standing work station is that about half the population develops severe low back pain if they move too quickly into this new configuration. We want to find the right interventions to ensure good back health for everyone and accommodate movement”.

More studies will have to be done to really see the effects of standing for a long time and what is the best way to avoid them. However, it seems like at least a part of your problems can be removed now if you just start using a footrest. It is a cheap and simple way to help your lower back. Cashiers, bank tellers and office workers with standing desks should know about this.


Source: University of Waterloo

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