Pre-existing low-back symptoms impact adversely on sitting time reduction in office workers

Pieter Coenen, Genevieve N. Healy, Elisabeth A.H. Winkler, David W. Dunstan, Neville Owen, Marj Moodie, Anthony D. LaMontagne, Elizabeth A. Eakin, Leon M. Straker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Initiatives to reduce office-workplace sitting are proliferating, but the impact of pre-existing musculoskeletal symptoms on their effectiveness has not been determined. We assessed the influence of musculoskeletal symptoms on the outcomes of a workplace sitting intervention. Methods: Baseline and 3-month data from a cluster-randomized controlled trial of a workplace sitting intervention (Stand Up Victoria; trial registration number ACTRN12611000742976) were used. Office workers (n = 231) from 14 work teams within one organisation were randomised (by worksite) to a multicomponent program with individual-, organisational-, and environmental-level (sit-stand workstations) change strategies; or, to a control condition (no intervention). Musculoskeletal symptoms in the low-back, upper and lower extremities (present/absent) were assessed through self-report. Linear regression models tested the moderation by baseline musculoskeletal symptoms of intervention effects on workplace sitting and standing time and on sitting and standing bout durations, assessed by the activPAL3™ activity monitor. Results: There were significant reductions in sitting and increased standing at work (p < 0.05). However, effects varied significantly by the presence of pre-existing low-back (but not other) symptoms, with greater benefit being seen in those without symptoms. Effects on sitting time and sitting bout duration were weaker in those with low-back symptoms compared to those without by 34.6 [95% CI (0.9; 68.3)] min/8-h workday and 5.1 [95% CI (0.2; 9.9)] min, respectively. Comparable effects were seen for standing. Conclusion: Low-back symptoms may impact on the extent to which office workers change their workplace sitting and standing time. A prudent next step to improve the effectiveness of workplace sitting-reduction initiatives such as Stand Up Victoria may be to assess and address the needs of those who displayed comparatively limited behaviour change, namely those with pre-existing low-back discomfort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-618
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Volume90
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017

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