MRU Active Office Study: Occupational Activity and Effects of Neck and Back Pain Perception


  • Emily Johnson Mount Royal University
  • Lauren R. Lavoie Mount Royal University
  • Nishan Sharma University of Calgary
  • David Borkenhagen University of Calgary
  • Trevor Day* Mount Royal University


Several chronic diseases, as well as neck and back pain, have been linked to prolonged sedentary behavior, particularly in the workplace. Standing desks are frequently advocated to reduce occupational sitting time. We investigated the relationship between reduced sitting/increased standing time and localized neck and lower back pain, and compared self-reporting to an objective measure of physical activity (PA) using accelerometers. We hypothesized that reduced sitting/increased standing time would decrease pain, and that the Occupational Sitting and Physical Activity Questionnaire (OSPAQ) is an effective tool for assessing PA. MRU employees (n=72; 42.7±1.2yrs; BMI 27.3±0.7 kg/m2; 12 males) were divided into control (C, n=24) intervention (I, n=26), or intervention plus education (I+E, n=25) groups. Five days of PA data was collected using activPAL3 accelerometer technology, and compared to OSPAQ responses. Localized neck and back pain was assessed using a visual analogue scale. After baseline measures, I and I+E groups were given standing desks, while I+E was further informed about the risks of sedentary behavior. The I+E reported less neck pain (-14.7%; P=0.004) after three months, but this was unrelated to any variation in sitting/standing time. The OSPAQ values were only weakly correlated with the activPAL3 PA data for sitting (r =0.32, P=0.005), standing (r =0.34, P=0.003) and walking (r =0.31, P=0.007) at baseline. At three months, only standing time was correlated (r=0.24, P=0.04). Our preliminary data suggests neck and back pain are unrelated to sitting/standing time after 3 months, and individuals are inaccurate in estimating changes to PA using the OSPAQ.

* Indicates faculty mentor.





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