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, 12 (7-8), 409-418

Spinal Shrinkage During Work in a Sitting Posture Compared to Work in a Standing Posture

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Spinal Shrinkage During Work in a Sitting Posture Compared to Work in a Standing Posture

G Leivseth et al. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon).

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to measure the possible differences in shrinkage of the thoracolumbar spine in subjects working in a sitting and a standing posture for 6.5 h at work, in a realistic work environment. The isolated shrinkage of the thoracic and the lumbar spine was also examined. STUDY DESIGN: This study presents a new protocol to measure shrinkage of the thoracic and lumbar spine separately. BACKGROUND: Controversies still exist with regard to the load on the spine in a sitting compared to a standing position. Some report that shrinkage is greatest in the sitting position while others report the reverse. However, nothing is known about the height reduction of the thoracic and the lumbar spine during loading for 6.5 h in a real work environment. Therefore, the behaviour of the thoracic and the lumbar spine under practical condition has to be investigated. METHOD: A stadiometer with a measurement error of 0.51 mm was used to measure changes in spinal height during work. To exclude first-time behaviour of the spine, a pre-test lasting 50 min was undertaken. The mean of the last three measurements was used as the reference height. During work, height measurements of the spine were performed every 20 min. To separate the behaviour of the thoracic and the lumbar spine, two benchmarks were placed at the vertebrae prominens and at the thoracic-lumbar junction. Shrinkage of the spine was investigated within three different cohorts: (I) work in a sitting posture for 6.5 h; (II) relaxed sitting for 2 h vs work for 2 h in a sitting position and (III) work in a standing position for 6.5 h. RESULTS: Relaxed sitting leads to a gain in stature compared to work in a sitting position for 2 h. The major gain in stature occurred in the lumbar spine. Comparison of cohort (III) working in a standing position with cohort (I) working in a sitting position shows that the shrinkage of the spine is greatest when work is performed in a standing posture. The major differences were found in the shrinkage of the lumbar spine, e.g. shrinkage of the lumbar spine in the standing cohort (III) was 4.16 mm compared to 1.73 mm in the sitting cohort (I). CONCLUSIONS: There is a gain in stature during relaxed sitting compared to work in a sitting posture. The load on the spine is greatest when work in a standing position is performed. The greater shrinkage of the lumbar spine during work in a standing position compared to a sitting posture is probably due to: (i) differences in lumbar lordosis and (ii) the effect of bending and torsion while handling the work materials.

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