Sit or Stand: How Do You Keep Your Back Happy?

Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Charles Dickens wrote standing up. Virginia Woolf wrote standing up. I can write standing up. Right?

We’ll see.

Convinced that sitting all day at my computer was killing my back, I set out to create a more permanent standing setup than planting my laptop on a rack on top of my sewing machine cabinet in the guest room or occasionally on the kitchen counter. After much measuring, planning, online ordering, and office rearranging, I now have in my official office a standup working arrangement. My desktop computer is an old Windows 7 model with all the brains in a box on the floor. Some of my USB cables were not long enough, so I had to change to a Bluetooth-connected printer (thank you, Pat) and order a wireless keyboard (I had worn off the L and the N anyway). I had to move my clock and my calendars so I could sort of see them, and I’m still figuring out where to put my mug-warmer, so I can sip my tea while I work without spilling it on the keyboard.

All of this rearranging required much standing, bending, lifting and crawling, delightful for my back. If you recall, last week, I was mostly lying down staring at the ceiling or the sky. But I’m doing much better, I was careful, and I’m seeing the chiropractor again today for one more tuneup.  

Standing here, I can look out at my back yard. Sunrise was so beautiful. I can check email and Facebook while on my feet. But I get tired. I wrote this morning’s poem sitting on the loveseat with the dog, and I’m sitting in my new raised “drafting” chair as I type this. But when I feel like it, I’ll stand for a while. I wonder if one thinks differently, if one writes differently standing vs. sitting. Does the body assume a fight or flight stance? What do you think?

I haven’t had a job that required much standing since I worked retail in college. I do remember how great it felt to sit down on my breaks. Since I went into the newspaper biz in my senior year, I have always worked seated. This is a privilege not granted to all workers. Think about all the people who spend all day on their feet: waitresses, cooks, nurses, assembly line workers, bank tellers, hairstylists, teachers, and more. A lot of us don’t even notice that these workers are standing all day, but they are.

It doesn’t take much research to learn that even with supportive shoes, cushioned surfaces, and occasional breaks, standing jobs take a toll on the body. In fact, they’re just as bad for your back as sitting all day. Check out these articles:

Standing All Day at Work May Take Toll on Health, WebMD News from HealthDay

10 jobs that keep you on your feet

Standing All Day for Work? Here’s How to Avoid Pain and Injury

So what do we do? I can testify that sitting all day trashes your back, especially if you’re hunched forward concentrating like I tend to do. You also get “lithographer’s spread” (fat butt) as my late father-in-law used to say. Standing uses more calories, so I’m hoping to lose a few pounds, but I can already tell I’ll only be standing off and on.

Our bodies are made to move. I believe the only logical conclusion is to not stay in any one position too long. So now I’m standing as I write this last bit. Up, down, up, down, keep it moving. I set a timer to both force myself to stay on task and to tell me when to get up and move.

There are people who sit on big rubber balls or run on treadmills while working. Amazon offers what looks like a stool on a rubber mount that keeps moving around. I don’t have the coordination for that, but I applaud their creativity.

How about you? How much time do you sit? Have you worked jobs where you had to stand all day? How did you deal with that? How do you keep your back happy? I look forward to your comments.

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What Do You Do When Your Back Goes Out and You can’t Stay in One Position for More than Five Minutes?

For one thing, you don’t post on your blog for three weeks in a row because all you can think about is your back, and that’s boring. I’m still getting things done, just . . . differently.

My back has gone bonkers. I just spent my third weekend babying it. The only semi-comfortable position is upside down with my back flat on the floor, the bed, or the deck. See photos. The world looks quite different in reverse. The clouds are gorgeous. The ceiling looks like a new world I’d like to explore. The dog is intrigued. She sniffs. Hmm. What’s going on? Then she barks until I take her out for a walk where I moan for a block, then turn her around, saying, “Mama has to go lie down.”

Please don’t send advice. I’m drowning in it. I’m seeing the chiropractor every other day. I just want to share some of the quirky things this has caused me to do:

* Binged the 8-episode series Clickbait, a mystery-thriller that kept me guessing right up to the surprise ending, which I watched in the wee hours this morning. Highly recommended.

* Watched “The Starling,” a movie with Melissa McCarthy, and “An Unfinished Life” with Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman. Both good. Put them on your list, too. I also watched some real stinkers, but I won’t mention them.

* Decided to rearrange my office again, ordered a table and a high-rise chair to go with my standing desk, coming Thursday, assembly required.

* Decided to digitize 50 years’ worth of sheet music and ordered a new tablet, coming tomorrow.

* Joined the Walmart shopping club for the free delivery.

* Sampled an online mandolin course, which now keeps telling me to start my first lesson.

* Shopped for guitars and cars. Now my computer is full of ads for both.

* Soaked in the hot tub for hours, trying out all the features on the control panel. If I could move my computer desk to the hot tub, I would stay there all day.

* Listened to a bazillion podcasts, most of them stupid.

* Zoomed countless poetry readings, changing location every few minutes. I honestly don’t know how I will ever sit still in a chair when COVID lets us meet in person again.

* Revised my memoir one more time, sitting, standing, and lying with my laptop on my belly.

* Planned landscaping and redecorating projects that I will undertake when I can move again.

* Continued playing music at church, where I was grateful Catholics change position a lot—sit, stand, kneel, walk up to Communion . . .  Stand up straight! I thought I was.

* Let the mail stack up and the dirty dishes wait.

* Thought about how maybe I can’t live here by myself anymore even though I love my place in the forest.

* Counted my blessings that I could still walk and move and plan even though it hurt. Lots of people can’t do those things.

Is it getting better? I’m honestly not sure. I’m not crawling around with two canes now, so that’s something. I can stand without screaming, but . . . I don’t know. I’m doing what I can to mitigate the effects of sitting at my computer all day, mostly by just not doing it. Hemingway wrote standing up, so I can, too. Meanwhile, the floor is calling me.

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