An interesting clinical pilot study was recently
published in The Spine Journal that looked at changes in lumbar
disc height before and after normal sitting with the use of
a seated unloading exercise intervention.
Fryer et al. (2010) used upright MRI to measure changes in height
and configuration of the lumbar discs after sitting and a chair-care
Their premise is that sitting is associated with loss of lumbar lordosis
disc compression and height loss which possibly increases the risk of
low back pain. So they proposed a practical strategy for the sitting based
jobs to prevent lumbar flattening and perhaps low back pain.
MRI scans of the disc height were taken at various intervals:
before sitting, after 15 minutes of relaxed sitting, immediately after
the seated unloading exercise and again at the 7 minute mark after
Their limited anectodal findings indicate that the chair-care exercise
has an immediate effect on the sitting related low back pain through
a spinal decompression effect.
Below is a picture of the exercise:
it involves 5 seconds of unloading and 3 seconds of reloading
and repeating the sequence 4 times
Although the current study has several limitations this seated unloading
exercise may represent for the manual therapist a symptomatic and even
preventative intervention for sitting pain among sedentary workers.
Fryer J, Quon J, & Smith F. Magnetic Resonance imaging and stadiometric assessment of the lumbar discs after sittingand chair-care decompression exercise: a pilot
study. The Spine Journal 10 (2010) 297-305.
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