Prolonged sitting at work=back pain. Or perhaps not...

02 November 2018

We often hear from doctors or physiotherapists that the sitting position has negative impact on our backs. But is this really the case? As it turns out, a vast majority of research does not see the relationship between deskbound work and the occurrence of back pain. So are all the slogans that talk about it wrong? Not quite – and we will try to briefly explain to you why.

Studies show that approximately 90% of adults have suffered back pain, which indicates that this is a fairly common topic. We often hear that prolonged sitting causes back problems and that it is the worst position one can take. However, it must be loudly said that it’s not the seat that causes our back pain, but the LACK OF MOVEMENT. Our spine has been created for movement and it is movement that nourishes our joints.

"I have a hernia and that's why my back hurts."

 This is another phrase that’s frequently heard in physiotherapeutic offices. Research shows that 37% of people aged 20 have a degenerated disc, which is asymptomatic, and this percentage increases with age, reaching as much as 96% for 80-year-olds. This means that not all people who have a hernia suffer back pain (the older the person, the larger the percentage). In addition, it is also worth mentioning that the most hernias are present in the thoracic spine, which hurts us least often.

What about sitting then?

If there is a hernia that causes our back pain, the worst thing we can do is to stop being active. Movement provokes a better nourishment of our spine. Immobility causes the pro-inflammatory substances responsible for the pain to remain in one place and sow destruction. It is very important to move as much as we can. And this isn’t about paying two visits to the gym or swimming pool during the week, but regular activity. There is no good stagnant position for our spine. Kelly Starett even stated that the best position for our spine is... THE NEXT ONE. If our job is to sit in front of the computer for 8 hours, then every now and then (optimally at least once every 30-40 min) we should get up and move; we can go down the corridor or do some simple exercises. During these 30-40 minutes of sitting, we should also change our position - once straight, once more on the edge, and then differently again. Our backs will thank us for that.

How about working standing up?

If we have the possibility, standing at work can bring many benefits because it’s easier to fulfil the need for movement. We have more freedom while standing, so we can change positions more often. The most optimal solution is to have a desk with a height adjustment (from sitting to standing). This will allow us to change frequently and freely during permanent work at the desk. However, it should be remembered that we are dealing with the same principle as when sitting. If we stay in one position for a long time, even the "most ergonomic" one will not save us from backache. The authors of the study suggest that during an 8-hour working day, we should spend 2-4 hours standing or walking to minimize the risk of spinal problems.


MOVE - and we could pretty much end it here. The most important thing for our spines is to provide them with proper nutrition through movement. This way our muscles are forced to work in different planes and ranges of motion, and therefore they do not endure overloads, while we enjoy healthy backs.

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