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Standing, moving help relieve lower back pain, University of Pittsburgh study finds

April 8, 2018

Standing and movement were found to reduce lower back pain in desk-bound employees nearly 50 percent of the time, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh found.

The Stand Back study, a six-month study of 27 people, found if a person would use a sit-stand desk and take brief three-minute walks during the workday, then lower back pain would decrease.

“Lower back pain is the number one cause of disability in the workplace,” said study leader, Bethany Barone Gibbs, an assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Health and Physical Activity and Clinical and Translational Science.

Indeed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2016, 23.2 percent of all Americans sought treatment for the condition.

Gibbs’ study said local desk-bound workers should stand for at least two hours and perform regular light-movement breaks throughout their workday. In the study ­­— six men and 21 women — low back pain disability was decreased by 36 percent in the intervention group compared to a no treatment, control group. Three percent of the people in the study took medication for pain and all participants monitored their own behavior and were only checked once a month, Gibbs said.

Also, 92 percent of intervention participants reported a decline in low back pain and 67 percent said they were more productive at work. Additionally, 58 percent said they felt healthier overall and 50 percent reported higher levels of energy, focus, and comfort.

“We are big in getting people to modify their behavior,” Gibbs said. “This is non-pharmacological. It gets people to make a positive change in their behavior.”

The Stand Back study also noted that a height adjustable workstation coupled with an activity prompter — such as a Fitbit — is an inexpensive treatment that shows promise for reducing back pain in desk workers.

Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-871-2346, selliott@tribweb.com, or via Twitter@41Suzanne.

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