The Standing Desk: A DIY Trip to the Chiropractor

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My laptop’s screen burned out and it was the best thing that happened to me in a while. I had hooked it up to an old monitor I had lying around but my laptop screen, now useless, was also blocking my view of the screen, and I couldn’t close it because that would mean I could no longer use the keyboard and mouse. (If I had found a keyboard and mouse along with that monitor, I might have never made this discovery.) I spent a few minutes accepting this like a passive chump. Then I realized the solution was to go vertical.

At first I tried putting the monitor on top of a cardboard box. That didn’t work out so well because I was constantly craning my neck to see the screen. My monitor would have to be at eye level. This would mean my keyboard would have to be significantly lower than eye level. So in the tradition of many great American stoics before me, I said “fuck it, I’ll stand!”

There are a bookshelves behind my desk, and when I cleared out some space in the middle and mounted the monitor up there, it was almost perfectly at eye level. I put my laptop on top of the cardboard box to make they keyboard at the right angle for my hands. And that was it. In five minutes and for exactly zero dollars, I had eliminated from my life the greatest cause of back pain in post-industrial society: the desk chair.

As I writer, I used to spend far too many hours slumped over a desk. If you’re a student or have a desk job, you also have this problem. By sitting down, hunched over for hours, you’re putting stress on the joints of your lower spine and you’re letting your postural muscles get weak. And by sitting down at work, while getting to work, and when you get home from work, you’re shortening your hip flexors, which in layman’s terms are the muscles that make your knees go up. These get tight and they put even more tension on your lower spine. Now you have chronic back pain. So if you do any work at a desk and want to be healthier and in better shape without investing any time or money, make yourself a standing desk.

If you have a laptop, the easiest thing to do is just to put your chair on top of your desk and then put your laptop on top of that. Doing this you might have to make t-rex in order to type.

The best solution is stacking things. I was lucky enough to have something on which to mount my monitor, but you can do the same thing with a few more cardboard boxes. Just stack em’ baby! America (probably) throws out millions of cardboard boxes every day, and they have enough structural integrity to support a modern computer.

You will have about a two week period of adjustment. If you’re used to sitting down a lot, it might be uncomfortable, but your legs will adjust. And you’ll want to do things to strengthen your postural muscles. This is where the fun begins.

You can do a lot of things to make this setup more entertaining. I like to stand on a skateboard or some kind of wobbly surface. That way I can rock side to side while checking my email. For more of a challenge you can create some kind of unstable standing surface. Get a baseball or something cylindrical like a can and then put a piece of plywood on top of that. This will get the muscles that stabilize your pelvis working. You’ll use your muscles to support your weight instead letting it fall on your joints, and over time your spine will start to decompress. And there you go! Your desk is now a FREE trip to the chiropractor.

If you want to take this a step further, sell your bed and start sleeping on the floor. I know it sounds like something a heroin addict would do, but trust me, your back will feel amazing.

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Nate Cox- Low-Budget Literati

Nate Cox- Low-Budget Literati

Nate was born in the People's Republic of Berkeley and has gotten weirder ever since. After pursuing an economically unwise degree in Literature at UCSB, he has returned to the Bay to try this whole starving artist thing. Get him drunk enough and he will tell you about everything from Aboriginal Australian languages to jazz theory to how he coulda been a contendah. In his spare time, he looks at satellite images on Google Earth of places he will never go.