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Standing up to Back Pain – How 30 Minutes Each of Standing and Sitting Can Improve Productivity and Relieve Back and Leg Pain

sit-stand workstation for back pain reliefStaying active is one of the best ways to help reduce your risk of back pain and help alleviate pain itself. Incorporating more exercise into your day can seem like a real challenge though when work, school, kids, partners and everything else makes claims on your time. A new study suggests a fairly simple solution: alternating between 30 minutes of standing and 30 minutes of sitting down at work. Does it really help relieve back pain, and will it harm your productivity?

This latest research, courtesy of scientists in Australia, found that office workers who spent a week switching between working standing up and working sitting down for half hour periods felt less tired and had reduced back pain and lower leg pain compared to when they spent the whole day sitting at their desks. Earlier studies have found that office workers spend around 75% of their day sitting in a chair, which has a significant effect on the risk of a variety of ailments, including back pain, cardiovascular disease and even diabetes.

The focus of this back pain study was two-pronged, with the researchers looking not only at the ability of this routine to relieve pain but also its potential effect on productivity. As any office manager knows, having your employees take a break every half hour to do jumping jacks or get some fresh air can really cut into available work time, while having people sit in a poorly lit, stuffy office all day is also detrimental to productivity (and health!).

The researchers recruited 17 men and 6 women and randomly assigned them to either spend their workday sitting or alternate between sitting and standing. Both groups used an electric adjustable-height workstation such as the Ergotron WorkFit-S 33-341-200 Dual Sit-Stand Workstation and the work desk was adjusted in height during standing and sitting periods. Participants wore physical activity monitors so that their sitting, standing and walking times could be recorded. The office workers were largely middle-aged (average age 48) and as the researchers were interested in the effects of being sedentary on markers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, they recruited 15 overweight, and 8 obese participants. The routine was followed for five work days and then the roles were reversed during a second work week.

Questionnaires were filled out at the end of the working weeks to assess levels of fatigue, musculoskeletal comfort, and how productive they felt they had been. The workers also noted how well they liked the adjustable workstation. Those who switched between sitting and standing reported higher enjoyment (81/100) when using the workstation, compared to 64/100 in the seated workers.

Switching between standing and sitting resulted in an average fatigue score of 52.7, compared to 67.8 when sitting all day. Scores over 66 were considered higher than what a healthy person would feel. The sit-stand group had 32% fewer musculoskeletal symptoms in the lower back and 14% fewer in their ankles and feet compared to when sitting all day.

Focus and concentration were better during the days when people worked sitting down, but productivity was actually higher in those alternating between sitting and standing. Those in the sit-stand group also tended to be less impatient, and less irritable than those sitting all day. The decrease in fatigue reported when sitting and standing may also translate to increased productivity over time, and the reduced incidence of back pain and leg pain may also help workers to minimise sick days over the longer term.


How to Get More Exercise in Your Average Work-Day

This may be the first study to show clear improvements in back pain, leg pain, and fatigue, following well-documented reductions in sedentary behaviour in office workers. Standing is increasingly seen to be better for health than sitting, while moving around is even better than standing. This can seem tricky to do in an office setting but simply things can increase physical activity during the day, such as:

  • Walking to talk to a colleague, instead of emailing or calling
  • Using the stairs instead of escalators and elevators
  • Heading further afield for lunch
  • Standing up and walking around during a phone call
  • Having meetings standing up or even walking around a courtyard outside
  • Switching after-work drinks for a squash game, jog, or yoga class

Standing up and moving around during the work day can help decrease metabolic factors associated with increased inflammation, aid circulation for better tissue oxygenation and nourishment, improve emotional well-being, reduce pain, and also help prevent overtaxing of certain muscle groups that may lead to back pain, neck pain or other pain condition. Over time, increased activity also appears to reduce the likelihood of undesirable changes in bones and ligaments that may lead to spinal stenosis and back pain.

Reference

Thorp AA, Kingwell BA, Owen N, Dunstan DW. (2014). Breaking up workplace sitting time with intermittent standing bouts improves fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort in overweight/obese office workers. Occup Environ Med. 2014 Aug 28. pii: oemed-2014-102348. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2014-102348. [Epub ahead of print].

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Could Probiotics Help Relieve Arthritis Symptoms Like Back Pain?

gut health back pain probiotics for ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritisThe health of the gut has a profound effect on overall health and well being but you might not have previously connected gut health and arthritis symptoms like back pain. In a new review researchers have looked at how gut microflora’s influence on our immune system may point to a novel way of preventing and treating arthritis. Could popping a probiotic help reduce back pain, with the only side effects being better all-round health? Continue reading “Could Probiotics Help Relieve Arthritis Symptoms Like Back Pain?” »

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Vitamin D Deficiency and Spinal Stenosis – Cause or Effect?

vitamin d back pain cycling exercise

Cycling is often a great way for low back pain sufferers to stay active and soak up some sun!

Make hay while the sun shines, or so the saying goes. Spinal stenosis sufferers might want to consider the alternative phrasing of ‘make vitamin D while the sun shines’ as research suggests that a deficiency of vitamin D is linked to increased pain and worse prognosis for spinal stenosis. Interestingly, however, women who undergo back surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis actually enjoyed increased vitamin D levels after their procedure. What’s the link between vitamin D and back pain? Let’s take a look. Continue reading “Vitamin D Deficiency and Spinal Stenosis – Cause or Effect?” »

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Could Spinal Stenosis Mask a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Symptoms of spinal stenosis can be confusing and confused with other conditions, including vitamin B12 deficiency. Indeed, some clinicians warn that not checking a patient’s vitamin B12 status may lead to them continuing to suffer primary symptoms even after having high-risk spine surgery. So, just how prevalent is vitamin B12 deficiency and how can you tell if you’re getting enough? Continue reading “Could Spinal Stenosis Mask a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?” »

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Is Too Little Vitamin C to Blame for Your Back Pain?

vitamin c spinal stenosis back painVitamin C is typically seen as the supplement we turn to when trying to get rid of or avoid a nasty cold but could this essential nutrient also be involved in the development and progression of spinal stenosis? Read on to find out how getting enough vitamin C could help with your back pain and why smokers in particular need to carefully monitor their nutrient levels. Continue reading “Is Too Little Vitamin C to Blame for Your Back Pain?” »

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Using Topical Analgesics for Back Pain Relief

back pain relief creamPopping pills can help fight back pain but they aren’t as specific as topical analgesics and can take longer to kick in. They’re also more likely to have adverse effects and to interact with other medications, diseases, foods, alcohol and so on.

Do topical pain relief gels really work though, or are they unable to penetrate deep enough or produce significant effects to help people manage their back pain? Continue reading “Using Topical Analgesics for Back Pain Relief” »

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How To Heal Fractures Faster

healing broken bone in backSticks and stones may break your bones, but can diet and lifestyle modifications help them to heal faster? Are you accidentally hindering your healing process? What can you do right now to help remineralise your broken vertebrae and relieve spine pain? Continue reading “How To Heal Fractures Faster” »

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Best Ways to Sleep to Avoid Back Pain

spinal stenosis back pain sleep positionsAvoiding back pain is no easy feat, but just changing the way you sleep could offer the most significant relief yet! You might be proactive about posture at work, spend time at the gym or outdoors staying fit and healthy, and avoid slouching on the couch in the evenings and at weekends but when you spend a third of your time in bed it may be that your back pain is connected to something you’re doing unconsciously. Continue reading “Best Ways to Sleep to Avoid Back Pain” »

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The Best Back Braces for Lumbar Support for Adults, Kids, Athletes and More!

choosing a back braceCoping with the daily agony of back pain can be exhausting and while most physicians don’t recommend continual use of a back brace (because it can cause your spinal muscles to weaken), sometimes a little support is just what you need. So, once you’ve got your doc’s approval for using a back brace, what do you need to think about when choosing a product for spinal stenosis relief? Continue reading “The Best Back Braces for Lumbar Support for Adults, Kids, Athletes and More!” »

Avoiding Back Pain While Travelling

traveling with back pain

Asking for help can save you from back pain while travelling.

When travelling, spinal stenosis can be a real pain in… well, you know. So, if you suffer from pinched nerves, sciatica, or other form of spinal stenosis, what can you do to make it a little easier to zip around the country visiting relatives or going on vacation? Here are five top tips on beating back pain while travelling. Continue reading “Avoiding Back Pain While Travelling” »