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Have you been shifting around on your office chair, because your low back is bothering you? There is good reason for the discomfort. Standing puts the least stress on the discs and ligaments of your low back. Sitting on a conventional office chair puts constant stress on the sacroiliac joints and discs of the lumbar spine. This predisposes the ligaments of the back to becoming sprained and inflamed and the lumbar discs to herniation. The problem is that most work stations are set up for sitting all day while completing tasks. When the time spent sitting at work, home, and commuting are combined, a perfect storm of low back issues is set up.
One popular solution to the excessive sitting problem is to stand while working. In order to do this effectively, a standing desk or a standing desk converter is needed. You may ask yourself, "does this mean that I have to stand all day? " Don't worry, most experts recommend alternating sitting and standing every 30 minutes for best results. This cuts sitting time in half and allows more time for your back to heal. Many of the patients at my New York, NY chiropractic office find this guideline to be very useful.
A three month study was done to evaluate the effects of switching from a sit all day workday to a sit-stand work day. "Health outcomes improved in terms of participants’ subjective health and the pain they experienced in their necks and shoulders. Regarding work efficiency, subjects’ vitality in work engagement and self-assessment of their work performance improved.. " 1
In one study that evaluated alternating sitting and standing using an adjustable height workstation, the researchers concluded: "Transitioning from a seated to a standing work posture every 30 min across the workday, relative to seated work, led to a significant reduction in fatigue levels and lower back discomfort in overweight/obese office workers, while maintaining work productivity. " 2
Another solution, although less known, is to invest in a kneeling chair. There is much less stress on your low back when you stand, compared to when you sit. Standing encourages an ideal curvature of your lumbar spine which puts the least stress on your discs. When you sit in a conventional office chair, it reduces the normal curvature of the lumbar spine, which in turn puts more stress on the discs of your spine. To help counter this problem, a kneeling chair helps maintain a curvature of the lumbar spine close to that of standing.
There is a study that compared the alignment of the spine when sitting in standard office chairs vs. kneeling chairs. In this study, the baseline measurement was the alignment of the spine when the subject was standing. The reviewers of the study said that the results "suggests that ergonomically designed kneeling chairs set at +20 degrees inclination do maintain standing lumbar curvature to a greater extent than sitting on a standard computer chair..." 3
So, instead of alternating standing and sitting in a conventional chair, you can alternate standing and sitting on a kneeling chair. This will minimize the stress on your low back during your office hours.
Let's face it. Eliminating low back pain at work is very important. It distracts you from your work and negatively affects your performance. This, in turn, can also impact your career. It also affects your social life and family life, because it puts you in a bad mood as well, making you irritable and less pleasant to be around. Your family, friends, can employers will be more excited to have you around when you aren't in pain.
One of the greatest rewards from my work as a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist is the day when a patient who initially came to my office with no smile or a forced smile due to pain, comes in one day smiling from ear to ear, because he/she is no longer living in pain. Simple changes like switching to a standing and/or kneeling desk can be the key to a pain free life.
Here are the kneeling chairs and standing desks that I recommend. My patients have tried them and are happy with them.