We’ve all heard of standing and treadmill desks, and at the moment, many of us are taking full advantage of working from the sofa, but did you know there are lying-down desks, too? Sounds like something a slacker’s dreams are made of, right? Actually, they're not that unprofessional. They can, in fact, be quite good for one’s back.
Daniel Demkiewicz, a senior physiotherapist at Emirates SportsMed and vice president of the Emirates Physiotherapy Society, explains more.
“The main advantage of this workplace solution is to minimise the load on the spine,” he says. “During the horizontal position, the least compressive force on your discs is applied, compared to that of standing and sitting positions. Therefore, this lying-down desk is called ‘zero gravity’ – although gravity still works.”
The heaviest load on our spine occurs when sitting, he adds. “It is also worth noting that a [lying-down] workplace supports our head, so it creates less tension on the cervical spine and muscles. So our backbone rests.”
Now, before we all go running out (or, more likely, rushing to our computers) to buy such a desk, Demkiewicz doesn’t necessarily recommend them for everyone. “The horizontal desk could be an amazing option for those with acute back pain, who have to lay down and rest,” he says. “While they cannot move a lot because of pain and muscle stiffness, this solution can be really helpful.”
If you have moderate to no back pain, however, then a lying-down desk is not a good idea, says Demkiewicz. “The main disadvantage is that your body is immobilised. It means we are not moving much, but movement is crucial for our basic life functions, such as circulatory and digestive systems.
“Muscles are resting, our brain activity can slow down and make us more sleepy and less productive. Moreover, our metabolism slows down and we can more probably gain weight with less energy consumption.”
For people with moderate back problems, Demkiewicz recommends using a standing or sitting desk with a Swiss ball or inflatable pillow. “This unstable seat will activate deep core muscles responsible for low back support,” he explains. “It can also be a way to work on your core stability while working.”
If you have a normal desk or “sofa desk”, as he puts it, Demkiewicz advises taking regular breaks to move. “Start doing some basic stretches, mobility exercises or even basic yoga for back pain. Movement is very important.”
And if you do find yourself experiencing any pain, then make sure you have regular check-ups with a physiotherapist or osteopath, he adds. “I always tell my patients that if they do regular car maintenance every 10,000 kilometres, why can’t they do it for themselves?”