For Patients
Ask the PT

Carol Green, PT

Q: Standing desks have become the latest trend, but should I really be standing all day at work? In addition, what is the best practice to reduce back, neck and shoulder problems?

Most people spend 50-70% of the day sitting at their desk. Seventy-five percent of workers using video display terminals (VDT’s) have back, neck or shoulder pain. Here are a few common questions that are asked regarding sitting or standing at work.


1.) What is the best type of chair and sitting posture for work?

Proper seating posture is one of the best changes that one can make to prevent back, neck and shoulder problems. The 90-90-90 degree sitting position recommended is described as the head aligned on top of the shoulders, shoulders aligned on top of the hips with the elbows, hips and knees at 90 degree angles. The feet should rest flat on the floor or on a foot rest.

There are different brands of chairs available. The most important items to look for are a 5 castor chair with comfortable padding in the seat and back of the chair with an inward slope of the back of the chair to support your low back curve.

The seat pan should have a “waterfall effect” that curves gently away from the knees to prevent impeding circulation. Arm rests are optional but are best if they can flip up out of the way when keying. Be sure not to lean on the arm rests for long periods which can increase compression of joints, nerves and muscles.

Proper seating posture


2.) What can I do to prevent back, neck and shoulder problems while working at my computer ?


Research states that for every inch of forward head posture the weight of the head increases by 10 lbs., therefore the muscles of the neck and back overwork. It is recommended that performing 4 weeks of micro active breaks, which is combined stretching and simple exercises can lead to a significant reduction in perceived discomfort.

Fifteen minute breaks should be done every 2 hours of continuous VDT work. Once you start this routine keep it up!


3.) Should a person use a standing desk?

The standing desk and treadmill desk options allow the opportunity to change positions periodically during the day to give the body a change to reduce repetitive stresses and prolonged postures. The elbows should be bent at a 90 degree angle with arms by the sides. The height of the standing desk should be about 42 inches or elbow height.

THE FINAL ANSWER IS YES!!! Sitting and standing should be alternated to prevent back, neck and shoulder problems. REMEMBER TO KEEP MOVING!


Carol Green is a physical therapist at OrthoCarolina's Eastover Physical Therapy.

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