The Standing Desk Hype
In the last year San Francisco has become The Technology Hub, The New Silicon Valley, The High Tech Paradise, The New Gold Rush destination. Pinterset, Zinga, Square, Salesforce, Twitter, Zendek and hundreds more high-tech startups are setting shop in San Francisco.
Compared with previous generations today’s younger techies are top talent – younger, smarter, harder working, harder playing, as well as more health conscious. The spaces they occupy has changed from cubicles or small offices to open floor unconventional office spaces with designer quirks and health rooms .
Dr. Mazgaloff, a founder of Chiro-Health, Inc in San Francisco, a leading chiropractic, acupuncture and massage clinic who provides services to most of these companies in the financial district sees this change first hand. The office space design has included standing desks, open space for exercise, you can see exercise balls, foam rollers, pink pong tables, small weights, la cross balls, elastic/theraband wall units in addition to healthy snack /juice bars, gym, and yoga studios. Why this change, why they are there? Companies have come to realize that workers work harder when they are well – healthy and energized, and why go anywhere else when you can do that right there in the office.
As a chiropractor in the financial district of San Francisco, Dr Mazgaloff adds that the transition to standing desks is the one she appreciates most. “As doctors and chiropractors we want to prevent the very thing we treat and the effects of sitting are so dramatic and so easily avoidable, that is quite time we not only understand them, but also address them through simply transitioning to standing work stations”. We see the effects of sitting every day. Conditions include chronic headaches, low back pain, muscle spasms, stiff neck, hip pain, knee pain, degenerative disc disease in people as early as their 20’s among other things. Many patients ask us why they have these pains and degenerative changes, since they are so young and otherwise healthy.
Here is a look at how sitting affects us. As we sit for extended periods of time the posterior muscles in the low back, middle back, neck and pelvis become elongated, weak, inhibited, and underused. The hip and neck flexors on the other hand become short and taut. We mostly feel the muscle’s response to sitting in the form of muscle spasms or tension, but the problem is far beyond the muscle. Prolonged slumped postures cause micro sprains and strains to the joints of the back and neck over prolonged periods of time. This leads to lose of neutral curvatures in the lumbar spine and the cervical spine, deformation of ligaments that are elongated in the back and shortened in the front, disc compression, disc thinning, disc bulges, pain radiating to the arms or legs, or disc tears. The body overreacts to this damage and starts producing increased muscle tone, which feels like spasm, tension, knots in the muscles. Naturally because it feels like spasm we start stretching the muscles instead of what we need to do, strengthen them. In an effort to decrease employee injuries and increase comfort, many modern offices are offering a new alternative: Standing Workstations. A standing workstation is essentially a desk raised to a height at which the user can stand comfortably. This allows you to move more freely than sitting in a chair, which decreases the strain on your lower back. Because you are moving more, you also have more blood flow to your spinal muscles. This keeps the muscles functioning at a higher level and helps them to protect the spine from minor injuries. People who are standing generally have better posture than those who are seated, which also helps to decrease the strain on the neck and upper back. Standing can have its own drawbacks, however. Many people who stand for hours at a time report hip pain, knee pain, foot pain and lower back pain as common. This is because of the pressure of the weight of your body on your pelvis and legs. Some of this strain can be alleviated by standing on a padded surface. Perhaps the best solution is the convertible work station. These are a relatively new option that allow the employee to easily transition their desk from a seated to standing height, and back again. Many of my patients who have convertible work stations say they like to mix it up: start the day standing and then sit after lunch, or make Monday a standing day and Tuesday a sitting day, etc. The convertible option allows the desk user to make the desk really work for them. While it is still important to have an ergonomics evaluation of the convertible workstations, we feel they are a great long-term solution to the problem of spinal stress in the workplace.
Dr. Mazgaloff is happy to say that the San Francisco tech companies are leading the standing desk hype – not really a hype but a revolution. Most of our patients are already using them, and the ones who need them get them by simply requesting them. We already see decrease in the chiropractic visits due to aggravations of back and neck pain especially, as well as all the rest of the disorders associated with sitting.