Does objectively measured prolonged standing for desk work result in lower ratings of perceived low back pain than sitting? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Work. 2020;67(2):431-440. doi: 10.3233/WOR-203292.


Background: Prolonged sitting has been shown to induce transient low back pain (LBP). Height adjustable office desks now present the opportunity to replace sitting with standing in the workplace. Since standing has also been associated with LBP, this may not be an advisable alternative.

Objective: To determine if objectively measured prolonged exposures to desk work while standing, compared to sitting, results in lower perceived LBP in healthy adults.

Methods: A systematic search of several databases was conducted. Two independent reviewers screened titles/abstracts and conducted a quality assessment. The results of three studies were pooled using an inverse variance random-effects meta-analysis. Heterogeneity was tested using the Chi-squared test and I2 statistic.

Results: Objectively measured prolonged standing postures during desk work did not induce significantly less perceived LBP compared to seated postures (standardized mean difference 0.60, 95% CI -0.68 to 1.87, p = 0.36.) There was significant heterogeneity, I2 = 90%).

Conclusions: It appears that replacing seated desk work postures with standing for prolonged periods of time would not be recommended. Larger studies, including a wider age range and health history, conducted in the field with objective measures is recommended to obtain more generalizable data on which to base ergonomic standards for work postures.

Keywords: Transient pain; low back pain; objectively measured posture; office work.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ergonomics
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / etiology
  • Posture
  • Standing Position
  • Workplace