What Happens If Your Desk Is Too High?

December 06, 2023
What Happens If Your Desk Is Too High?
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The Impact of a High Desk

Having a desk that is too high can lead to various discomforts and potential health issues. Understanding the impact of a high desk is essential in order to take appropriate measures to alleviate these problems.

Understanding the Discomfort

When your desk is set at a height that is too high for your body, it can result in discomfort and strain on different parts of your body. Some common issues associated with a high desk include:

  • Shoulder and Neck Strain: A high desk can cause you to elevate your shoulders and strain your neck muscles in an attempt to reach your keyboard or mouse.

  • Wrist and Arm Discomfort: When the desk height is not properly aligned with your arm position, it can lead to awkward wrist angles and increased pressure on your arms, potentially resulting in discomfort or even repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

  • Back and Spine Misalignment: Sitting at a desk that is too high can disrupt the natural curvature of your spine, leading to poor posture and potential back pain.

  • Leg and Foot Discomfort: In order to reach the desk surface, your legs may dangle or be positioned awkwardly, causing discomfort and potential circulation issues.

It is important to address these discomforts promptly to prevent them from worsening and potentially leading to long-term health issues.

Potential Health Issues

Continued use of a high desk without proper adjustments and ergonomic support can lead to several potential health issues. Some of these include:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders: Prolonged strain on the muscles, tendons, and joints due to poor desk ergonomics can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders, such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and neck and back pain.

  • Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs): Repetitive movements with poor ergonomics, such as typing or using a mouse at a high desk, can increase the risk of RSIs. These injuries can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected areas.

  • Poor Circulation: Improper leg positioning and pressure on the underside of the thighs due to a high desk can impede blood circulation, leading to discomfort, swelling, and potential long-term health issues.

  • Decreased Productivity: Discomfort and pain caused by a high desk can significantly impact your focus, concentration, and overall productivity, hindering your ability to perform tasks efficiently.

To mitigate and prevent these potential health issues, it is important to address the root cause of the problem by adjusting your desk height and adopting proper ergonomic practices.

Ergonomic Strategies for Coping

If you find yourself facing discomfort due to a high desk, implementing ergonomic strategies can help alleviate the issues and improve your overall well-being. Here are some practical strategies to consider:

Adjusting Chair Height

One key adjustment to make is the height of your chair. Ensure that your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. If your feet don't reach the ground comfortably, you can use a footrest to provide support. This helps to promote proper posture and reduce strain on your legs and lower back. 

Using a Footrest

If you find it challenging to achieve the proper sitting position with your feet flat on the ground, a footrest can be a valuable addition to your workspace. A footrest allows you to elevate your feet to a comfortable position, reducing pressure on your legs and improving circulation. It also helps to maintain proper posture by keeping your knees at a 90-degree angle. Experiment with different footrest heights and angles to find the most comfortable position for you.

Adding an Adjustable Keyboard Tray

To ensure optimal ergonomic positioning of your hands and wrists, consider adding an adjustable keyboard tray to your workstation. This allows you to position your keyboard and mouse at a height that promotes a neutral wrist position, minimizing the risk of strain and discomfort. Adjust the tray so that your forearms are parallel to the floor and your wrists are straight while typing. This helps to prevent issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries.

By implementing these ergonomic strategies, you can enhance your comfort and well-being while working at a high desk. Remember to make adjustments that suit your individual needs and preferences. It's also important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed. Incorporating regular movement and stretching exercises, as well as micro-breaks, can further alleviate discomfort and promote better overall health. For more tips on creating a comfortable work environment and seeking professional guidance, continue reading the next sections.

Improving Posture and Alignment

When faced with the discomfort of a high desk, it's important to focus on improving your posture and alignment to alleviate strain on your body. By making some simple adjustments and adopting the right habits, you can reduce the impact of a high desk on your overall well-being.

Proper Sitting Posture

Maintaining proper sitting posture is essential for minimizing the strain caused by a high desk. Follow these guidelines to achieve optimal posture:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor or use a footrest if needed to ensure your knees are at a 90-degree angle.
  • Sit with your back straight and shoulders relaxed, avoiding slouching or hunching forward.
  • Position your hips all the way back in the chair, utilizing the chair's backrest for support.
  • Align your head and neck in a neutral position, avoiding excessive tilting or straining.

By maintaining a correct sitting posture, you can reduce the pressure on your spine and muscles, leading to improved comfort and less strain.

Utilizing Back Support

To further enhance your comfort while working at a high desk, consider utilizing back support. Ergonomic chairs with built-in lumbar support can help maintain the natural curve of your spine and provide additional comfort.

If your chair does not have built-in lumbar support, you can use a cushion or rolled-up towel placed at the curve of your lower back for added support. This helps to alleviate strain and encourages proper spinal alignment.

Positioning Your Monitor

Proper positioning of your monitor is crucial for maintaining good posture and reducing strain on your neck and eyes. Follow these recommendations:

  • Place your monitor directly in front of you at eye level, about an arm's length away.
  • Adjust the height of your monitor so that the top of the screen is at or slightly below eye level.
  • Tilt the monitor slightly upward to reduce glare and strain on your neck.

By positioning your monitor correctly, you can prevent excessive bending or straining of your neck, allowing for a more comfortable and ergonomic workspace. 

Remember, maintaining good posture and alignment is crucial, regardless of your desk height. By incorporating these practices into your daily routine and making necessary adjustments, you can minimize the discomfort caused by a high desk and create a healthier work environment for yourself.

Incorporating Movement and Breaks

When dealing with discomfort from a high desk, it's essential to incorporate movement and take regular breaks to alleviate strain and improve overall well-being. By implementing simple strategies such as regular stretching exercises, micro-breaks, and active sitting, you can reduce the negative impact of a high desk on your body.

Regular Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises are a great way to counteract the effects of prolonged sitting and relieve muscle tension. Incorporating a few stretching breaks throughout your workday can help improve circulation, flexibility, and reduce discomfort. Here are a few stretching exercises you can try:

Stretching Exercise Targeted Areas
Neck stretches Neck and shoulders
Shoulder rolls Shoulders and upper back
Wrist and finger stretches Wrists and fingers
Seated forward bend Hamstrings and lower back
Seated spinal twist Spine and hips

Remember to perform each stretch slowly and gently, avoiding any sudden or jerky movements.

Taking Micro-breaks

Taking regular micro-breaks throughout your workday can help reduce the strain caused by sitting at a high desk for extended periods. Stand up, move around, and stretch your body every 30 minutes to an hour. These short breaks allow your muscles to relax, promote blood circulation, and reduce the risk of developing stiffness and discomfort.

During these micro-breaks, you can perform quick exercises like walking around the office, doing a few jumping jacks, or even taking a few flights of stairs. Engaging in light physical activity helps to break up prolonged periods of sitting and keeps your body active and energized.

Implementing Active Sitting

Active sitting involves using chairs or cushions that promote movement while seated. By incorporating an exercise ball or an ergonomic chair with a dynamic seat, you can engage your core muscles and improve posture while working at a high desk. These seating options encourage small, natural movements that help prevent static muscle fatigue and promote better blood circulation.

Remember to maintain proper posture and align your body correctly while actively sitting.

Incorporating movement and breaks into your daily routine is crucial when coping with the discomfort caused by a high desk. By regularly stretching, taking micro-breaks, and implementing active sitting, you can promote better blood flow, reduce muscle tension, and enhance overall comfort while working. Don't underestimate the power of small movements and breaks in maintaining your well-being throughout the workday.

Creating a Comfortable Work Environment

When dealing with the discomfort caused by a high desk, creating a comfortable work environment becomes crucial. By focusing on elements such as proper lighting, temperature and air circulation, and personalizing your workspace, you can alleviate some of the discomfort and enhance your overall work experience.

Proper Lighting

Good lighting is essential for a comfortable workspace. Insufficient or harsh lighting can strain your eyes and negatively impact productivity. Position your desk in a way that maximizes natural light. If natural light is limited, consider using a combination of ambient lighting and task lighting to ensure adequate illumination. Adjustable desk lamps or overhead lighting with customizable brightness can be helpful in achieving the desired lighting levels.

Temperature and Air Circulation

Maintaining a comfortable temperature and proper air circulation in your workspace is key to ensuring optimal working conditions. Extreme temperatures can cause discomfort and distractions. Ideally, the temperature should be set between 68-76°F (20-24°C) for a comfortable working environment. If you have control over the thermostat, adjust it to suit your preferences. Additionally, proper air circulation can prevent stuffiness and improve air quality, so ensure that vents are unobstructed and consider using fans or opening windows when possible.

Personalizing Your Workspace

Personalizing your workspace can contribute to your comfort and overall well-being. Adding personal touches, such as plants, artwork, or photographs, can create a sense of familiarity and make your workspace feel more inviting. Additionally, organizing your desk and keeping it clutter-free can help reduce distractions and create a more productive environment. Consider using desk organizers, cable management systems, and storage solutions to optimize your workspace and keep it tidy.

By focusing on creating a comfortable work environment, you can mitigate some of the discomfort caused by a high desk. Remember to prioritize proper lighting, temperature and air circulation, and personalization to enhance your overall work experience.

Element Recommendation
Lighting Maximize natural light and use adjustable desk lamps or overhead lighting with customizable brightness.
Temperature Maintain a temperature between 68-76°F (20-24°C) for optimal comfort.
Air Circulation Ensure proper air circulation by keeping vents unobstructed and using fans or opening windows.
Personalization Add personal touches like plants, artwork, and photographs, and keep your desk organized and clutter-free.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a workspace that promotes comfort, productivity, and overall well-being.

Seeking Professional Guidance

If you're experiencing discomfort from a high desk, it may be beneficial to seek professional guidance to address the issue effectively. Professionals in the field of ergonomics and healthcare can provide valuable insights and recommendations to help alleviate your discomfort. Here are a few avenues to consider:

Consulting an Ergonomics Specialist

An ergonomics specialist is trained to assess work environments and provide tailored recommendations to optimize comfort and productivity. By evaluating your specific situation, they can suggest adjustments to your workspace, such as chair height, desk height, and equipment placement. Consulting an ergonomics specialist can provide you with valuable insights into the ergonomics of a high desk. They can also guide you on the correct desk height for posture and the importance of proper desk ergonomics. This professional expertise can significantly contribute to your overall well-being and comfort while working.

Considering Equipment Modifications

In some cases, equipment modifications may be necessary to improve your comfort at a high desk. An ergonomics specialist or a furniture professional can help you explore options such as adjustable desks, keyboard trays, or monitor stands. These modifications can help you achieve the optimal alignment of your body and reduce strain on your muscles and joints. Remember to consider the compatibility of any modifications with your existing workspace and workflow.

Seeking Medical Advice

If you've tried ergonomic adjustments and are still experiencing discomfort or pain, it may be prudent to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or orthopedic specialist, can assess your condition and provide personalized recommendations. They can help identify any underlying health issues related to your discomfort and suggest appropriate treatment or therapy options. Seeking medical advice can ensure that you receive comprehensive care and support for your specific needs.

It's important to proactively address the discomfort caused by a high desk. Seeking professional guidance can greatly assist in identifying the root causes of your discomfort and finding effective solutions. Remember, everyone's situation is unique, so it's essential to consult with professionals who can provide individualized recommendations based on your specific needs.


Can a desk that is too high cause long-term health issues?

Yes, working at a desk that is too high can cause long-term health issues such as chronic back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and even spinal disc problems.

How do I know if my desk is too high?

If your arms are not at a 90-degree angle when typing and using your mouse, your desk may be too high. Additionally, if you experience back pain, neck pain, or shoulder pain after sitting at your desk for an extended period, it could be an indication that your desk is too high.

Can standing desks also be too high?

Yes, standing desks can also be too high. When using a standing desk, it's important to ensure that your arms are at a 90-degree angle when typing and using your mouse. Additionally, you should wear comfortable shoes and stand on an anti-fatigue mat to prevent foot pain.

What are some exercises I can do to alleviate the pain caused by a desk that is too high?

Some simple exercises you can do include shoulder shrugs, neck stretches, and lower back stretches. Additionally, taking breaks throughout the day to stand up and walk around can help alleviate stiffness and pain caused by sitting for extended periods.


In conclusion, working at a desk that is too high can cause a variety of health issues, including back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and decreased productivity. However, by adjusting your chair, using a footrest, adjusting your desk, and taking breaks, you can avoid these issues and work comfortably and productively. Don't let a desk that is too high affect your health and productivity. Take action today and make the necessary adjustments to ensure that you are working comfortably.


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