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Standing Desk Back Pain: Can Upgrading Your Workspace Help You Find Relief?

Standing Desk Back Pain: Can Upgrading Your Workspace Help You Find Relief?

If you're like many of us who spend prolonged periods in front of a screen, you may experience back and neck pain. Upper back pain is a common complaint of sedentary office workers. The reason why is pretty simple - our anatomy is not equipped to handle 8+ hours of sitting a day. Humans historically spent more time standing upright. Nevertheless, you need to be at your desk job getting work done. So, what can you do?

Perhaps you've heard of standing desks as an alternative to traditional office desks. Maybe you've even heard those who use these revolutionary desk styles claim they've reduced - or eliminated - back pain. That's not all - those who swear by standing desks may even experience decreases in neck pain, hip pain, poor posture, brain fog - and much, much more. 

Sounds too good to be true? It's not! When using a height-adjustable desk properly, it is possible to significantly improve and even eliminate symptoms of upper back pain. We'll explain how in this complete guide to standing desk and back pain relief. You'll also gain valuable information to help you reach pain relief even faster. Let's start with why you experience back and neck pain as a result of your mostly sedentary lifestyle.

Reasons For Upper Back Pain: Overuse, Muscular Imbalance, & Weakness

Sedentary office workers often have upper back pain due to their body posture during their work day.

Throughout the day, our shoulders have a tendency of falling forward as well as inching upwards as we carry tension in the muscles at the top of our shoulders. These muscles are called the upper fibres of trapezius muscles and are a common place to carry stress and tension.

This prolonged shoulder position can create upper back pain, as our shoulders are pulled into a suboptimal position for many hours as we work on our computers.

When your shoulders fall forward, the shoulder blade is pulled further away from the midline of your back, preventing the muscles in the upper portion of the back from working effectively. Over time, these muscles become lengthened due to this habitual posture.

When muscles become lengthened, over time they lose their strength. In addition to a loss in strength, muscles become less effective at firing or engaging, since they are used to being “turned off”.

In addition to the muscles in the upper back, the joints in the upper back are also affected by poor posture over time. If your shoulders are continuously rounded forward, this will naturally lead to a forward curve of your upper back as well. This forward flexed posture in the upper back can lead to a loss of extension in the upper back over time, or an increase in discomfort when an individual tries to extend or stretch this region of their upper back.

Standing Desk & Back Pain Relief: Can a Sit-Stand Desk Really be the Key?

The most effective way to decrease upper back pain is by sitting and standing in the proper posture throughout the work day. When sitting at your desk, try to keep your shoulders back and prevent them from falling forward. Instead of overcorrecting this posture by puffing out your chest (this can actually increase your back pain because you are overarching your spine), try widening your collarbones and thinking about gently “unrounding” your shoulders.

Next, picture bringing your shoulder blades down and towards the midline of your body. Again, this does not mean overcorrecting and squeezing these muscles tightly: it simply means gently thinking about a small change in the positioning of the shoulder blades by activating the muscles that maintain your shoulder blades in a good position.

Try to Stand For at Least a Few Hours a Day

A lot of individuals find that sitting in this position for a long period of time is quite challenging. This is perfectly normal! Most sedentary office workers have weak postural stabiliser muscles, so do not get discouraged.

Some individuals find it easier to maintain this better static position while standing: this is one of the many reasons why a sit-stand desk is so beneficial.

Perfection is not the key to decreasing your upper back pain through an improvement in posture. No one will stand or sit in perfect posture throughout the entirety of their workday! However, increasing one’s awareness of their posture and trying to check in and modify it throughout the day may lead to a large improvement in symptoms of discomfort.

Where to Find a Standing Desk for Back Pain?

There's no doubt about it - investing in a quality standing desk for back pain is a great way to start your journey to a more comfortable, safe working environment. By addressing the root cause of your upper back pain or lower back pain - your workspace - you can slowly start to reverse the damage that has been done over the years.

Not only will you experience less pain and discomfort, but you will also find that you're more productive when alternating between sitting and standing. Frequent movement breaks go a long way not just in decreasing pain and discomfort - but increasing productivity. This routine keeps your body and mind "fresher" throughout the day.

So, now the question turns from can I use a standing desk for back pain, to where can I find a standing desk for back pain? And fortunately, we know just the place.

At UpDown Desk, you'll find the best selection of standing desks online. Whether you're looking for an electric adjustable corner standing desk or a more budget-friendly manual sit stand desk, we've got options you're sure to love. We even have standing desk converters and electric standing desk frames. Across our lineup, you'll experience unparalleled strength, durability, and height. And with unbeatable customer service every step of the way, you can rest assured you're getting the best bang for your buck with us.

Additional Ways To Decrease Upper Back Pain: Exercises

Investing in a quality adjustable standing desk is a great way to eliminate much of the pain you feel in your back as a result of sitting too much. This investment will also contribute to better overall posture while reducing hip pain, neck pain. And, you may even experience an uptick in productivity!

But, many of our readers are up against decades of poor posture. To help you enjoy relief faster, you can implement regular exercise. There are two exercises that physiotherapist prefers for decreasing upper back pain:

  • Cactus stretch
  • Wall angels

We'll break them both down for you below - starting with the cactus stretch.

Cactus Stretch With A Towel

This stretch is an effective way to increase the ability of the joints in the upper back to extend.

As mentioned above, if sitting in a forward flexed posture that allows for the shoulders to round forward throughout the day, the joints in our backs tend to lose their ability to extend, since they are constantly flexed forward.

Start by taking a medium sized towel and rolling it up into a tight roll. This towel should be smaller than a beach towel, but larger than a hand towel. You should be able to comfortably fit the towel roll in your hand.


Next, lay down on your back on the towel perpendicular to your spine (so that your spine and the towel make a cross shape). Start with the towel at the base of your neck, at the large, prominent joint where your neck ends and your upper back begins.

Lastly, bring your arms up so that they look like the branches of a cactus, or like you are trying to make a snow angel.

Sit here with the towel stretching the individual joint on which it is positioned. After 45-60 seconds, curl up and adjust the towel so that it is one joint lower, and repeat this process. Continue moving the towel down your back, holding for approximately one minute at each joint, until you reach the end of your shoulder blades.

Wall Angels

Wall angels are a strengthening exercise for the postural stabiliser muscles of your shoulder blade/upper back.

Start by bringing your heels, buttocks, upper back, head, elbows, and hands onto the wall. From here, nothing can leave the wall.

Using the muscles in between your shoulder blades, bring your arms up above your head and slowly lower down to the starting position.

 Avoid arching your back and popping out your ribs in this position: this is a common way that individuals “cheat” with this exercise. Lastly, if you cannot keep all of the abovementioned joints on the wall comfortably, take one step away from the wall and try again. If it is still uncomfortable, do your best! The motion is the most important part of the exercise, regardless of your starting position.

Do 10 reps and 3 sets of this exercise daily to increase the strength of the three main muscles in the middle of your back- rhomboids, middle fibres of trapezius, and serratus anterior muscles.

Final Thoughts On Standing Desk Back Pain Relief

Well, there you have it. If you're tired of dealing with back pain from your office setup, treat yourself to the comfort and pain relief you deserve. This investment will pay for itself fast! Standing desk back pain relief is just a few clicks away at UpDown Desk - the leading supplier of adjustable standing desks in Australia and worldwide. Create an ergonomic workstation today!

By Paulina Wegrzyn.
Paulina Wegrzyn is a physiotherapist residing and practicing in British Columbia, Canada. She completed her Master’s in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. She currently treats a large persistent pain population. Paulina is a certified pelvic floor physiotherapist, and takes a biopsychosocial approach to treatment. She uses a combination of education, manual therapy, soft tissue release, and exercise prescription with her clients. She is interested in educating others regarding the benefits of physiotherapy in order for them to feel empowered to take control of their health. She enjoys writing content related to this field of study as she believes that physiotherapy should be accessible to all.
Pauline - Masters Qualified Physiotherapist
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