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Standing desks are a trending topic in the office furniture space for years. They come with quite some benefits but it seems some people also suffer negative side effects from using them.

But is that actually possible? Or is there a lot of misusages that need to be corrected? Is standing at a desk all day bad for your knees?

Standing vs Sitting: Are Standing Desks Really Better?

First of all, there is no definitive answer if you don’t know about the circumstances.

There can be certain deviations from common practice but generally speaking, none of them is better, neither the standing position nor sitting.

As we all know meanwhile “sitting is the new smoking”.

does standing help lower back pain featured image

Sitting all day at your desk will definitely have some negative consequences for your body and health [1] if you don’t counter that behavior with appropriate measures.

People who are sitting for long periods of time even have a higher risk to get type 2 diabetes and risk of death [2].

Even regular exercise can make it hard to prevent sitting diseases in the long run if you don’t switch it up between sitting and standing, but more about that later…

Also standing all day at a standing desk long won’t benefit you either [3]. A lot of people who are forced to stand all day at work will know that.

Standing long hours per day can lead to:

standing back pain
  • long-term chronic back-pain
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • excessive lower-limb fatigue/muscle pain
  • increased risk of cardiovascular disease [4]
  • increased pressure in the veins
  • increase in oxidative stress
  • foot pain

So no, standing up for the whole day is NOT the solution to the problems caused, by a sedentary lifestyle.

You have to know how to use a standing desk correctly.

The Benefits Of Standing Desks

Anyway, research found that using a standing desk in the right way can lead to several health benefits, as…

  • Lowered risk of obesity, helps avoid weight gain
  • Brings down your blood sugar level
  • Decreased risk of being diagnosed with heart disease
  • Reduced upper back pain and neck pain
  • Improved energy level and mood
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Reduced caffeine dependency
  • Standing adds into your healthy years
  • more calories burned than sitting

So, as you can see the positive effects of using a standing desk (in the right way) are overwhelming.

Now, how is it possible that some people could claim standing desks hurt their knees?

Why Standing Could Cause Knee Pain- Can A Standing Desk Be Bad For You?

No, a standing desk can not be bad for you, but using it the wrong way could be.

As we learned above, being in a standing position for multiple hours per day isn’t healthy as well.

That is also not what a standing desk was intended to. It gives you the option to switch from sitting to standing and vice versa to combine the best from both worlds [5].

Meaning you should switch multiple times throughout the day, but also take some breaks and move around as much as you can.

The reason for that is that moving and being active is what causes these benefits. By constantly switching between positions you support this effect.

Where Does The Joint Pain Come From?

Well first of all that’s up to you or a physician to find out. The human body is a very complex structure and the knee is probably the most complex joint we have in our body.

So first of all consult a professional to help you find the cause of your suffering.

If you experience knee pain at your standing desk after a while, former injuries could be the root of your problem.

It doesn’t even have to be an injury you know about, because it hasn’t been diagnosed yet. So you may not even know about it.

It could also be your poor posture or a cause by another source like your hip or your ankle that’s actually the root of your knee pain.

example knee

Either way, it’s usually standing for too long that starts the problem. Also wearing uncomfortable shoes or standing on a hard surface could cause some discomfort.

Furthermore, the discomfort can result in muscles becoming stiffer and putting pressure on your joints leading to more pain, etc…

Why Standing Desks Shouldn’t Cause Knee Pain

As shown above, all of the studies done on the impacts of standing desks show positive results.

Even more, there is not a single study that will show negative effects, when using standing desks correctly.

So the only reasons why you experience pain are when you stand for too long, not using comfy shoes, stand on a hard surface, or if you had previous injuries.

Tips For Proper Standing Without Issues

Time

This is the single most important tip that you should know. Do not stand all day long it does even more damage than the same amount of sitting time. Whole days standing cause more damage than good.

Switch up your positions every hour or so and successively increase the amount of time that you stand.

Start off with just a few minutes and work your way up to a half hour, maybe even one hour but that should be the maximum amount of standing time at once.

Always remember: A standing desk helps you by switching up in-between positions. Staying in the same position and staring at your computer screen for long periods or even the entire day at a regular desk will always cause issues.

Mats

Use a standing desk mat like a gel pad or anything that will provide a soft surface.

Standing on a Balance pad will also activate more muscles in the whole body, which will help to improve your posture over time.

A proper posture can improve a variety of issues.

Also, stand around shoulder width on both of your legs. You can pivot from one leg to another but avoid standing on one foot over a long period of time.

standing desk mat

Shoes

When you’re at work you’ll most probably wear some shoes, or maybe not…depends on your employer. But if you have to wear some or prefer to, wear comfortable shoes instead of high heels.

Alternatively, you can also try standing bare feet when you have a mat.

We curated a list of the best shoes for a standing desk to give you some footwear options.

Take A Break And A Walk

Even though you now switch between the positions frequently you can get some extra activity throughout the day by taking a walk from time to time.

Take active breaks. Stretch around a little, do a couple of squats or jumping jacks to get the blood flowing.

businesswoman taking a walk

Also, leave your standing desk and take some little walks during your lunch break and get fresh air. Walking helps you to get more activity in your day. The more activity the better for your health.

What To Do To When You Have Knee Pain While Standing

Search For The Cause

are standing desks bad for your knees featured image

This should be a bit of obvious advice. But a lot of people (especially men) don’t like to go to the doctor to see what the issue is. But an effective treatment always depends on the cause of the problem.

You have to understand why you have knee pain in the first place, maybe it’s mostly unrelated to standing but caused by another issue.

Consult a physician for the right treatment in the first place.

Stretch Your Muscles

Sometimes the root of the problem can be stiffness in your muscles. That causes pressure in the joints, which causes pain. Permanent pressure can also lead to arthritis.

To prevent and treat that you should stretch your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves.

Maybe even use a foam roller to get deeper into the tissue. That will hurt especially in the beginning and when your fascia is stiff and clotted.

Eliminate the unphysiological strain on your joints.

woman stretching her leg

Strengthen Your Muscles

I would like to emphasize this point.

Have you ever heard the advice to remind yourself of a good posture and constantly sitting straight?

Like putting a post-it on your computer monitor?

That is one of the single most useless pieces of advice you could get.

It’s total nonsense trying to constantly remind yourself of your posture or trying to make yourself aware of it all the time. No one can do that, and it won’t help to get the right posture in any way.

It’s like having a flat tire, and constantly pumping it up instead of patching it.

You can only get a good posture by strengthening the weak muscles that are causing it.

Exercises You Should Do

First, let’s start with the muscle groups you should focus on to…

…improve your knee pain:

Strengthen your quads in closed chain exercises, like squats or leg presses. Don’t do leg extensions. This exercise usually worsens knee pain, because it puts pressure on the inside of your knee caps.

Train your hips, by doing adduction and abduction, and extensively stretch your hip flexors.

By sitting too much often times your hamstrings can be too weak. Do some leg curls to isolate your hamstrings and stabilize your knee.

woman doing legpress excercise

…to improve your posture:

Train your back muscles to raise your upper body. Do some lat pulls and also some rowing.

Exercise your abs as well.

Often times weak abdominal muscles and hypertension in hip flexors cause a hyperlordosis of the lower back, which can be the cause for bad overall posture.

Use A Bike Or Cycling

Lubricated knees are happy knees. Synovial fluid (joint fluid) lubricates your knee to avoid friction of the bearing areas.

You can favor the production of joint fluid by doing elliptical exercises like bicycling for a while. That’s a good general tip anyway if you have knee pain.

Get on your bike and make a little tour of 10-20 minutes.

Keep it low pace, just to move the knee a lot without force or pressure.

Also, Use The Right Chair

ergonomic office chair under 300

Finally, you know how to use a standing desk properly. But additionally, you also should pay attention to your chair.

Of course, it also makes a difference how you sit in your chair, and what kind of chair you have.

By using ergonomic chairs you can also counter some issues. So use ergonomic chairs.

Adjust it with the armrests to desktop height. Your arms should be able to rest on the desk while your shoulders are relaxed. Your feet should be flat on the ground.

If your feet dangle in the air, get a footrest.

Final Thoughts – Are Standing Desks Bad For Your Knees

Due to the complexity of the knee joint, there can be several reasons that cause pain. So if you have had knee pain for a while now you should definitely consult a physician about that and get professional medical advice.

Otherwise, you can try all of the tips from this article. Especially don’t stand for the whole day. Standing desks are not designed for that purpose. They should just help to get more activity and switch up between your working positions.

Generally, increase the activity and regular exercise in your everyday life, go walking or jogging and hit the gym a couple of times throughout the week.

But if none of the tips above help, still consult a physician.

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