Teesside lawyer James Pritchard is crediting his new standing desk with a dramatic improvement in an excruciating back condition.
James, 34, has three herniated discs in his spine, a degenerative condition that has led to prolonged periods of sickness leave from work in recent years – as well as almost constant pain.
But now that he spends his working days standing behind an adjustable electrically-powered desk, he’s starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in years.
“I started getting headaches when I was a trainee and my GP told me to get out and do some exercise,” the personal injury claims specialist explains.
“That helped with my general wellbeing but over time I started getting back problems.”
James was able to continue his hobby of mountain biking but his stress-busting Monday night five-a-side football game had to go.
“The problem was probably caused by a combination of things,” he says. “When I was a trainee at a different firm I was in the office every night until 7.30pm sitting at a desk all day and that’s very bad for your back.
“We’re not built to sit down all the time and it isn’t good for anyone. If you think about it you’re effectively leaning forward in an unnatural position.”
The pain became unbearable at times and James, who is 6ft 3ins tall, was forced to miss work as he laid out on his living room floor to try to gain some relief.
“I was sometimes off for a week or more and I was coming back when I shouldn’t have,” he says. “I was in the Redcar office at the time and driving in every morning was 15 minutes of sheer agony. Then I would sit at my desk with sweat pouring off me because of the pain.
“I found myself standing more and more of the time and I’d wander round the office while dictating.”
Standing desks are nothing new. Famous advocates include Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemmingway and even wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
“Being a history buff I knew Churchill stood at a fixed wooden pedestal when he was writing,” says James. “I also did work experience in a planning office where the draughtsmen used them.”
Boss Nick Mack had also heard of standing desks and offered to have one specially made for James when the problems first started.
“That sounded very expensive and I was reluctant at that time,” says James. “But I was in the office furniture section in Ikea one day when I discovered these modern, multiple-position desks that can be adjusted up and down.
“They had one with a winding handle and an electric model that went up and down at the touch of a button, which I thought was genius.
“But I was still concerned about the cost and I just struggled on for a while, working on the windowsill a lot of the time.
“Eventually my secretary, Louise Lambton, got sick of my whingeing and took charge of the situation. She approached our operations manager, Vicky Campbell, who looked into it and offered me a couple of options. Nick said yes straight away and an electric model was ordered.”
James says the standing desk has already had a big impact on both his comfort level and his productivity.
“I’ve still got my chair but I stand from morning until it’s time to go home, only sitting down to eat my lunch,” he says. “Not only is it better for your back but it’s actually good exercise and burns a surprising number of calories.
“My back’s still stiff when I get up in the morning but by the time I get home after standing all day, it’s fine.
“I know that my condition’s not going to get better – it’s a question of managing it. I have to do about 40 minutes of exercise every morning just to keep it as it is. But sitting is the worst thing and this takes it out of the equation.
“I prefer standing up anyway and find I think more clearly when I’m on my feet. I can do even some of my physio exercises while I’m working, standing on one leg with my core centred. I accept that might look at little bit odd to anyone who wanders in though!
“The pain will never completely go away, but since I got the desk it’s the best it’s been for years.”