Sit-stand workstations and impact on low back discomfort: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ergonomics. 2018 Apr;61(4):538-552. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2017.1402960. Epub 2017 Dec 4.


Background: Sit-stand workstations are proposed solutions to reduce sedentary time at work. Numerous companies are using them to mitigate health concerns such as musculoskeletal discomfort.

Objective: To review the literature on sit-stand workstations and low back discomfort.

Method: We conducted a meta-analysis on literature published before 17 November 2016 that addressed the relationship between sit-stand workstations and musculoskeletal discomfort, focusing on the low back.

Results: Twelve articles were identified and eight that presented results in means (SD) were included. Among a pain-free population, the standardised mean difference was -0.230 for low back discomfort with use of sit-stand workstations. When applying the SMD to studies using the 10-point pain scale, the effect estimates ranged between -0.30 and -0.51.

Conclusion: sit-stand workstations may reduce low back pain among workers. Further research is needed to help quantify dosage parameters and other health outcomes. Practitioner Summary: In a sedentary population, changing posture may reduce the chance of developing low back pain. The literature lacks studies on specific populations such as those who have pre-existing low back pain and also does not adequately address the dosage of sit-stand time required to help reduce pain.

Keywords: Sit-stand workstation; height adjustable workstation; low back pain; musculoskeletal discomfort; sit-stand desk.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Interior Design and Furnishings*
  • Low Back Pain / prevention & control*
  • Posture
  • Workplace*