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How can office workers avoid back pain? 


Illustration of an office worker sitting at a desk

You might want to stand up when you read this. The American Chiropractic Association says one-half of all working Americans have back pain symptoms each year, and that as much as 80 percent of the population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives. That's the painful truth. Although the back was designed "perfectly," according to Virginia-based chiropractor Ray Solano, our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, including long hours spent at work sitting in front of computers, contribute to the fact that Americans spend at least $50 billion each year trying to mitigate their back pain.

"Microtrauma can be caused by something like sitting in the chair all day long in an office, or it could develop from poor posture," says Solano, an alumnus of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Those are most of the cases see in my office."

The average American now spends more than nine hours in a sedentary position, during which high amounts of stress are placed on the spine. But little changes can make a big difference, says Solano, a chiropractic consultant for the Washington Capitals. He recommends office workers get up from their desk chairs at least once an hour, park as far as possible from a building entrance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and install an adjustable standing work station. Standing just a little more each day not only improves posture: it also tones muscles, increases blood flow, jumpstarts metabolism, and burns extra calories. 

"No real studies have proven whether or not we need to stand all day or sit all day, but we do know that the body responds better when you fluctuate it up and down," he says. 

You may now feel free to take your seat.


Back story wonks: Correctly answer the trivia question below and you'll be entered to win a Fitbit, which reminds you to walk at least 250 steps per hour.

A 150-pound person burns 904 calories sitting for 8 hours at work. If standing burns 150 calories per hour, how many extra calories will the employee burn if he or she uses a standing desk for 2 hours a day for an entire 40-hour work week?