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Stand and Take Notice: Sitting May Not Be Your Biggest Health Problem

By Martha Michael

Fatigued Warehouse Worker

There’s new research about your health that may affect what you do at your job. You’d better sit down.

According to an article by the Canadian television network CBC, standing too much can cause health problems you may not be aware of.

Moving Target

Research has taken aim at sitting, calling it a health hazard when done excessively, such as in the workplace. But when University of Toronto researchers analyzed data from government healthcare records, it was found that individuals who mainly stood while on the job had the highest risk of problems. Including such occupations as cashiers and machine operators, they found a higher rate of cardiovascular disease in those who mainly stand at their jobs.

"There are things like blood pooling in your legs, the venous return, the pressure on your body to pump blood back up to your heart from your legs, and that can increase your oxidated stress which can increase your risk of heart disease,” says Peter Smith, associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

Because experts put a lifestyle of sitting too much in the bull’s eye of health risks, many people who instituted changes made themselves a target once again by an increase in standing.

The American Journal of Epidemiology has an article saying we’ve ignored the hazards of standing because research has been laser focused on the health risks of sitting. The article goes even further, casting doubt on studies linking sedentary occupations with heart disease. Research out of England, Scotland and Denmark report no relationship between the two, it says.

By contrast, an extended period of standing affects the cardiovascular system, and in some cases creates musculoskeletal pain also. They collected data on occupations that included mostly:

  • Sitting
  • Standing and/or walking
  • Combinations of sitting, standing, and walking
  • Other postures, such as bending, stooping, kneeling, and crouching

The study found no elevated incidence of heart disease in any of the groups except those with excessive standing. Types of employment they classified in that group were retail sales clerks, customer service representatives, financial services, machine operators, cooks, and food and beverage servers.

“Occupations that involve primarily standing represent an important, but often overlooked, cardiovascular risk factor, one that is independent of other health, (socio-demographic), and labor-market characteristics,” the article concludes. “Efforts targeted toward reducing occupational standing should be considered.”

Broken Arrow

If you’re already experiencing pain as a result of poor posture positioning at work, take aim at solving the problem -- stat. It may include helping your superiors understand the importance of making changes, and new research can provide you with the ammunition you need.

Looking at factors affecting the prognosis for patients with musculoskeletal pain, an analysis in the British Journal of General Practice says that individuals who wait to be treated are making symptoms harder to eliminate. Research from primary doctors shows that the intensity, duration and previous bouts of musculoskeletal pain affect the outcome.

They studied data from patients with musculoskeletal pain involving a wide range of origin with the aim of understanding those at greater risk of a poor outcome and, thus, offering more accurate prognoses.

“The likelihood of future episodes is higher in those with a previous history of attacks, and the longer pain and disability are established, the more likely they are to persist,” it says.

That means it’s time to move -- in more ways than one. If you stand too much at your job, it requires a conversation with the boss. But for treating the damage already done, you want to consult with a chiropractor.

A chiropractic practitioner can offer you postural and exercise education to minimize the symptoms from excessive standing, which may give you some firing power when confronting your superiors. (It’s possible the suits at work could use some ergonomic training, as well!)

Manipulative therapies applying pressure to areas of the spine associated with your pain can effectively reduce the suffering you experience from long periods spent in one postural position. And patients who receive spinal adjustments on a regular basis have a lower chance of locking in chronic pain patterns that can impede the healing process.

Clearly, more research is needed about health hazards of various occupational posturing -- standing, in particular. It would enable employees to become aware if their job requirements are causing physical harm and make some changes, if necessary. And more data means they’re less likely to miss the mark.

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