by Alan Jordan
Sitting Causes Back Pain – Really?
The most common condition that chiropractors treat is lower back pain and the most common reason given by patients as to what caused their back pain was too much sitting and poor posture. As our clinic is located in the middle of the City, most employees spend long days sitting at their desks in one of the big banks and insurance companies in Broadgate, Moorgate or along London Wall. The alleged fact that sitting will result in back pain is solidly entrenched in the general population and has been for many years. The only problem with this is that there is NO scientific evidence that supports it.
Systematic reviews are carried out by scientists who review ALL of the relevant information available on a scientific topic and they then collate all of the data and arrive at conclusions/recommendations. As far as sitting and the development of lower back pain for example, there are three systematic reviews that all conclude that there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that sitting leads to the development of back pain. The most well-known study was carried out by Professor Jan Hartvigson of the University of Southern Denmark. It certainly caused quite a stir when his publication concluded that “The extensive recent epidemiological literature does not support the popular opinion that sitting-while-at-work is associated with LBP”.
Another systematic review carried out by Darren Roffey et al concluded that “Based on these results, it is unlikely that occupational sitting is independently causative of LBP in the populations of workers studied.” Lastly, another study concluded that “Although occupational physical activities are suspected of causing LBP, findings from the eight SR reports did not support this hypothesis.”
This body of evidence is quite convincing but does not mean that sitting poorly may not affect individuals. These studies involve large populations. Furthermore, the development of lower back pain involves many factors such as; genetics, work satisfaction, general physical health and so forth. It can be very difficult to isolate one factor as being determinant when there are so many factors at play.
Most patients who are currently experiencing lower back pain will experience a worsening of their symptoms while sitting. This makes good sense in as much as the lower back is supporting the weight of the entire upper body in the seated position. When standing for example, our legs carry most of the weight which in turn diminishes the weight bearing tasks of the lower back.
A proper ergonomic chair costs in the range of £5-800. Quite a sum, but not really that much if you calculate how much it costs per day to sit properly over a 7-8 year period – good quality chairs last a long time. The one that I am sitting on as I write this blog is 12 years old and in perfect condition.