Degenerative disc disease is a common condition and a frequent diagnosis for chronic back pain. It is the form of osteoarthritis that results in the thinning and general breakdown of the cushiony discs between the bones of the spine. There may be several symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease. A common one is the difficulty that some people have sitting for long periods. In this instance, people prefer to stand. However, there it is reasonable to consider the merit of this approach.
It’s Not Either/Or
While patients often ask us if sitting or standing is better for their back pain, the answer isn’t completely clear. It’s not that one or the other is better. It’s a matter of balance. Some studies suggest that it can be just as painful to stand for long periods as it can be to sit for too long. While the balance may look different for everyone, it can be beneficial to discover what that is and how to adjust accordingly.
How to Find Balance
There are several ways to create balance, even at work, to minimize back pain associated with degenerative disc disease and other spinal conditions. In fact, we’d go so far as to suggest that flexibility at work may even decrease back strain for those without injured or overworked structures (yet).
As we’ve come to realize that standing all day may not be a good idea for everyone, we’ve seen more workplaces institute adjustable workstations. For example, some grocery stores provide tall chairs or stools for cashiers. Some offices have installed workstations that allow employees to shift back and forth from standing to sitting while working at a desk.
Take the Break you Deserve
We’ve heard something like this used as a marketing gimmick years ago. “You deserve a break today” was a slogan that McDonald’s used to bring in more customers. It’s got merit when you think about it. We do deserve a break, especially if our back hurts! We’re not suggesting you go to McDonald’s. We’re suggesting that you punctuate the time you spend sitting or standing with breaks that allow you to alternate position or spend a few minutes stretching. Stretching is key to realigning and strengthening the body. This may include a short walk around the office or around the block. Don’t think of a break as something you have to deserve, either. This is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Find ways to stretch at work and also off-the-clock, with yoga or other low-impact activities.