A recent study (accepted July 2019) 1 set out to analyze the relationship between Low Back Pain (LBP) and the sitting behavior among sedentary office workers. The results displayed a higher association between a person’s sitting behavior and chronic LBP compared to acute pain or disability. Such association was deemed plausible due to individuals with chronic pain being more aware of pain-free sitting positions.
Why Focus on LBP?
Due to current lifestyles, sedentary working hours are everywhere. Furthermore, many people, after spending hours in a seated position (in professional settings) also remain seated during leisure times, too.
According to research, in general, rates of LBP has increased in office workers. This is especially true for professionals such as call-center employees. They’re said to spend up to 95% of their working hours in a seated position. Call-center employees also have to deal with high levels of stress when dealing with aggressive callers. Furthermore, such employees have reported higher levels of musculoskeletal symptoms compared to other office-setting workers.
Take note, LBP is the third leading cause of self-perceived disability and serves as an indicator for a significant economic burden to society. Being able to identify possible risk factors can prove helpful for creating and implementing preventive measures in office settings to aid employees and improving office culture.
A total of 70 office workers from a professional call-center were recruited for the current study. The call-center selected (specifically) dealt with challenging client situations; thus, the assumption that the participants were exposed to considerable levels of mental stress burden. The study was conducted within 2 weeks (at two different worksites of the same call-center company). Each participant was assessed during one complete working shift.
The measurement system involved a textile pressure mat “sensomative science” consisting of a 196 sensor matrix. Using Bluetooth Low Energy, the collected data was transferred from the textile pressure mat to a connected mobile phone (Nexus 5X, Google, LG, Seoul, Korea). The information was then stored in a corresponding mobile application.
To collect data about short and long-term pain status, the study used the Chronic Pain Grade Questionnaire and the German brief pain inventory.
Four pain variables (CPI, DISS, BPISeverity, BPIInterfere) were used to allocate participants into either subgroup A: no pain; no functional disability, or into subgroup B: with pain; with functional disability.
Data management and statistical analysis were carried out through the software suite IBM SPSS Statistics (v24, SPSS Inc., Chicago, USA).
While the study included 70 participants, six were excluded because of participation withdrawal or incomplete data sets. From a total of 64, two more participants weren’t included in the CPI and BPISeverity analysis due to inconsistent and (or) missing entries. However, a total of 64 participants were available to be considered for the DISS and BPIInterfere grouping variable.
It was indicated, through the Mean values of the four sitting behavior parameters, that participants with pain and pain-related disability displayed a comparatively static sitting behavior to their pain-free counterparts.
What does it all mean?
The study concluded that there is a possible trend toward more static sitting behavior among call-center workers who have chronic LBP pain and pain-related disability. Furthermore, a higher association was found between sitting behavior and chronic LBP compared to acute pain or disability.
This could be a possible result of the fact that participants with chronic pain have a higher level of awareness to pain-free sitting positions and pain provoking movements compared to individuals affected by acute pain.