Sedentary behaviour at work increases muscle stiffness of the back: Why roller massage has potential as an active break intervention

Appl Ergon. 2020 Jan;82:102947. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2019.102947. Epub 2019 Sep 9.


There is increasing evidence that subjects who are exposed to long sitting periods suffer from musculoskeletal discomfort and back pain. The underlying mechanism and effective prevention strategies are still largely unknown. In this study, muscle stiffness of the back was measured in 59 office workers who followed their usual desk work regime for 4.5 h in a sitting posture. The sitting period was either followed by an 8-min roller massage intervention or a controlled standing task. Results showed that muscle stiffness increased significantly after the 4.5 h sitting period. When the sitting period was followed by roller massage, the stiffness values dropped slightly below baseline stiffness. In contrast, the stiffness values remained increased when the sitting period was followed by controlled standing. This study indicates that short-duration tissue manipulation can be an effective active break between prolonged sitting periods to prevent musculoskeletal issues, such as musculoskeletal discomfort and back pain.

Keywords: Back muscles; Muscle stiffness; Prolonged sitting; Roller massage; Sedentary work; Workplace intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sitting Position*
  • Workplace*