The importance of activity and motion in daily life can’t be overstated. At RiedPT we understand the impact that these small changes can make in the recovery of wide range of conditions. Consider a low back pain patient that is struggling with disc pain. Conventional medical advice would tell them to rest, stay off their feet, and minimize movement. Many studies are showing, though, that the pressure applied to the disc and through the lumbar joints themselves is actually increased in sitting positions. In a study by Wilke in 1999, researchers found that intradiscal pressure significantly increased during supported sitting vs standing, and increased again with sitting unsupported (hunched forward).
There are a wide variety of treatments that are appropriate for disc patients to decrease symptoms and improve function, but another part of the recovery over time is dependent upon what you do with most of your hours, movements, exercise, and positions during the day. At first glance it may sound like standing is ALWAYS better than sitting based on the previous study, but this isn’t always the case either. In another study by Callaghan in 2001, researchers compared tissue forces, muscular activation, and load of the low back during different positions. They found that although standing appears to be a good rest from sitting given the reduction in passive tissue forces, the constant loading in one position would probably not provide as much relief for muscular activation levels as one with dynamic movement.
So all that to say…the best position for you is one that is dynamic and always changing. Some sitting, some standing, some stretching, some walking, etc. Your spine (and all parts of your body) benefit from movement in terms of pain reduction, fluid dynamics, blood flow, tissue oxygenation, and calming effects on muscle and nerve tissues. So when your therapist goes over ergonomics and varieties of positions that may help you during your day, remember that they all have a purpose, and when in doubt, get moving.