Standing desk experiment and consequent knee injury

There was a wave of standing desk posts all over the internet during winter 2013. It was a new shiny thing everybody was trying out. The reasons to switch from regular sitting in front of the monitor were quite convincing. There are multiple studies and tons of articles that showcase how sitting kills you. Being a guy who likes to experiment a lot I worked at a standing desk for a whole year.

Initial standing desk build

Building a new standing workstaction wasn't that hard at all. The top result in Google will give you this amazing 22$ standing desk recipe. So, on my way from a snowboarding weekend I hit IKEA to get some parts for me and my colleagues who were also interested to try something new as well.

This is how the end result looked after assembly (March 2013):
22$ standing desk setup by nazar gargol

Standing cycles

Before standing 'full time' I read a bit of articles that advised to strengthen up legs and start standing work slowly. So, I included extra leg exercises in my workout plan and stood working only when I used computer at home for about 2-3 hours/day. One more thing that made standing easier was doing it barefoot on yoga mat like this one. At this point everything looked good, and I liked being a bit tired before going to bed, as it made me fall asleep faster.

I quit my job at that time to finish up my masters degree and to try funemployment for a while, I started standing all the time 8-10 hours/day. It felt ok at the beginning and I was able to concentrate a lot more on the work. But couple of weeks into this my legs started feeling tired event when I was not standing. At this point I decided it was a bad idea to stand all the time and switched to 2 week standing/sitting cycles.

After the switch everything felt normal again and I enjoyed this new cycled approach. Almost a year went by, and in the end of the winter 2014 I started to feel pretty bad pain in my legs in the end of each standing cycle. There was no clear reason why it started happening, but I decided to shorten standing period to 1 week and sit for 2 weeks. On Friday afternoon this March during 'standing' cycle I set down with a horrible pain in my right knee and finished my workday on a couch.

The injury

Next day I woke up and after walking around the apartment the knee started to hurt the same way it did a day before. I took an ice bag and spent a day around a couch. The pain didn't go away after next couple days, so I had an appointment with a doctor to see what is happening (I stopped doing standing cycles at this point completely).

After having a knee ultrasound scan and an MRI (that thing is crazy loud), it turned out the meniscus was torn and one of the ligaments was injured. The doctor said that it was most likely the result of combination of two things: a car accident I had couple years before and my standing. The thing is that I didn't know about any of these injuries and had no trouble snowboarding or working out for almost 3 years before this. My standing experiment seems to have given an extra stress on the knee and those minor injuries progressed into a pretty big problem.

This is what I ended up with + a month of therapy which didn't help much:
injured knee strap support At the moment I am doing a lot of special exercises and eliminated any stress on the knee itself. The bad news is that if the pain persists the only way out is an arthroscopy, which is not a good thing for an active young guy like myself.

Moral of the story

The reason I post this is not to make everybody quit standing desks, but rather to tell about possible outcomes of this type of workstation organization. It is important to know your limitations, and it is best to do some diagnostics before starting to use a standing desk.

In my case I didn't know about the injured knee and probably wouldn't have noticed it until I was 50 or something. Instead, I have to deal with it in my 20ies.

Be safe! ;)