Stability ball and low back pain in office workers

Does Sitting on a Stability Ball Decrease Low Back Pain and Improve Core Stability?

Low Back Pain in Office Workers

Research has shown that low back pain (LBP) is more prevalent in individuals who sit for prolonged periods (3). This is significant for professionals, as approximately 75% of workers in industrialized nations are required to sit for prolonged periods at work. This rate continues to increase worldwide (1). Chiodo, A. E. et al. state that LBP accounts for approximately 25% of all workers’ compensation claims (U.S). The American Physical Therapy Association states that over half of Americans (54%) experiencing low back pain spent the majority of their work day sitting.

It has been suggested that replacing traditional office chairs with stability balls will decrease the prevalence of low back pain in office workers. An additional benefit of office workers sitting on stability balls is that it is thought to increase core strength, improve posture, and/or improve spinal motion, which may help improve LBP (4).

One study investigated the health benefits of sitting on a stability ball compared to an office chair. The researchers included 90 subjects in this study and compared sitting on an office chair to sitting on a stability ball for up to minutes per day over an eight-week period.

Stability Balls and Low Back Pain in Office Workers

The researchers found the stability ball intervention group had lower objective measures scores than the traditional sitting group (14.5%-25%). However, these results were not statically significant. The results of this study seem to suggest that sitting on a stability ball does not prevent, increase, or decrease low back pain or disability. More studies are needed to see if longer durations on stability balls or perhaps even complete replacement of the office chair produce statically significant decreases in low back pain.

Stability Balls and Core Strength in Office Workers with Low Back Pain

Office workers who sit on a stability ball for 90 minutes a day have a statistically significant increase in isometric trunk flexion and extension. However, researchers found no statistically significant increase in side-to-side stability. Therefore, sitting on a stability ball for 90 minutes per day increases muscular endurance of the abdominals and spinal erectors but not the obliques.

Summary of Low Back Pain and Core Strength in Office Workers Who Sit on  a Stability Ball

Based on the findings of this study and others, sitting on a stability ball does not decrease low back pain. This study did show sitting on a stability ball for 90 minutes a day increases front to back core stability. There are numerous studies showing improved core endurance and a decrease in low back pain. So it is conceivable that improving core endurance by sitting for a longer duration on a stability ball would reduce low back pain. Another, intervention to for office workers to try in combination with a stability ball is a sit-to-stand desk.

What Should I know before Using a Stability ball at Work?

How to sit on a stability ball at work

  • You need to ensure the stability ball is the correct size. When sitting on the ball your knees should be at 90 degrees.
  • Sit in the middle of the ball with your feet resting flat on the floor in front of you. Keep your back straight with your shoulders relaxed and your shoulder blades pulled together and down
  • Make sure you don’t sink into the ball causes your back to sag forward. Studies have shown this can increase low back pain
  • Avoid sudden movements that may cause you to strain your back or lose your balance.
  • Finally, don’t just sit on the ball. Use the stability ball as a means to exercise while at work. Work your core by decreasing stability by bringing your feet together. You can also perform simple exercises on the stability ball. Try lifting one foot off the ground with your hands raised by your sides. Hold for a few seconds, then switch feet.

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