Companies can play a role in alleviating workers' back pain

Aug 5 2011
Back or neck pain in older people often stems from degenerative conditions, but many other factors can also precipitate this type of discomfort.

In fact, estimates from the National Institutes of Health suggest that as many as 80 percent of Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives, so where does the condition come from in younger people?

It turns out that most of the time, young adults and middle-aged individuals who visit a doctor for low back pain lead sedentary lifestyles, which includes low levels of physical activity and long hours sitting at their desks at work.

Fortunately, there are simple ways in which office workers can remedy their back problems or perhaps even prevent them from developing in the first place.

These include taking short breaks every couple of hours to do simple stretches, eating lunch outside or walking to a colleague's office to talk instead of calling or emailing them.

Recently, a group of researchers conducted an analysis of whether the use of sit-to-stand desks improved employee well-being.

The team provided each study participant with a workstation that allowed them to easily move between sitting and standing positions. The results showed that a significant majority reported feeling more energized, focused and productive when they were able to switch positions during their work day. Moreover, some 50 percent of the employees reported a reduction in back and neck pain after four weeks.

"While these results are in line with common sense expectations, it is exciting to see that there is now an affordable way for corporations to mitigate the sedentary nature of most knowledge workers' routine," said Nico Pronk, PhD, one of the study investigators.

In addition to back and neck pain problems, prolonged sitting has also been scientifically shown to be a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.