Should you be using a standing desk?
Studies indicate that spending extended periods hunched over your keyboard often results in health issues, particularly back pain. Better posture is one way to minimize symptoms, but it's hard to do with the average desk-and-chair setup. Instead, many people have shifted to ergonomic workstations — and standing desks are one of the top investments.
While standing desks won’t prevent back pain altogether, they may contribute to fewer symptoms by placing the head, neck and spine in optimal alignment. That’s not all standing desks have to offer, though; many people report improved productivity, better circulation and many more benefits.
What you need to know about standing desks and back pain
Can standing desks alleviate back pain?
Some studies indicate that spending more time on your feet when you work, including while using "sit-stand" workstations, can minimize back pain as well as fatigue and muscle weakness for most people. Standing desks, in particular, are said to alleviate back pain because they place the head, neck and spine in a neutral position. Unlike stationary desks, standing desks are height-adjustable, so users can find ideal positions for arms and wrists while they use keyboards and mice.
How should you stand at a standing desk?
Standing desks alone won’t reduce back pain. To maximize benefits, you’ll need to adjust the height to create an ergonomic setup — which begins by standing with good posture.
When you stand in front of the desk, make sure your back is straight without being arched. Shoulders should be relaxed, and knees should be slightly bent. Forearms should rest comfortably on the tabletop, and ideally, elbows should be bent close to 90 degrees.
Next, position your computer monitor so that it is no more than 20-30 degrees below eye level. At this height, you’re less likely to bend your neck downward, which often results in neck and back strain. After that, make sure your keyboard and mouse are within reach so you don’t need to strain or stretch awkwardly to use them.
How do I stop my standing desk from hurting my back?
If you’re using a standing desk and experiencing back pain, there are a few ways to alleviate symptoms.
- Make adjustments. Change the height of the tabletop or monitor position to find a more comfortable setup. Sometimes, a few tweaks have a significant impact on comfort level.
- Sit down: Transition to a seated position when you experience discomfort or stiffness, particularly in your core or legs.
- Use a mat: Place an anti-fatigue mat beneath the standing desk to reduce tension and pressure on the lower body.
- Move often: Move frequently to boost circulation. When possible, walk around, change positions or stretch.
- Wear comfortable shoes: Supportive shoes, including pairs with arch support or memory foam insoles, may reduce lower back and foot pain.
- Try a stool: Footstools let you shift your weight from side to side while you stand, which in turn may minimize lower back and hip discomfort.
However, if you still experience back pain after making reasonable adjustments to your standing desk, contact your doctor to determine whether a standing desk is right for you or if you have underlying back pain issues that need to be addressed.
How much are standing desks?
Entry-level standing desks cost $125 to $200, while most mid-range options with better construction cost $250 to $400. High-end standing desks, including electric models, run between $300 and $800.
Top 5 standing desks
A high-end option, this electric standing desk comes with a dual monitor mount and has a 60-inch tabletop. The tabletop is made with environmentally-friendly bamboo and has cutouts for power cords and wires.
This sleek, minimalist standing desk is extra spacious with its 55-inch by 28-inch maple tabletop. The simple design coordinates well with room decor and office furniture.
If you’re short on space, this podium-inspired standing desk has a smaller footprint than most designs. The “stacked” design includes two lower levels for flexible storage and a pull-out keyboard tray.
Popular for home use and mixed-use spaces, this mobile standing desk is ideal for working on laptops and tablets. It offers quick and easy adjustments from sitting to standing with pneumatic controls.
For those who want to keep their regular desk, this convenient bi-level converter is a formidable compromise. It boasts a durable design with reinforced components, and the top shelf supports up to 33 pounds.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.