PETALING JAYA: Sitting down too long for whatever reason is bad for you and your employer.
It causes back pain and reduces productivity especially since the condition is common among office workers of all ages.
Occupational health physician Dr Abed Onn lists low back pain as one of the three most common work-related ailments, alongside noise-induced loss of hearing and upper limb muscular disorder.
In the absence of reliable statistics, he based his assesment on cases he has handled in the course of his work.
Dr Abed said that low back pain, along with similar painful conditions, was the cause of suffering and reduced productivity.
Dispelling popular belief, he said: "Low back pain is not an old man's ailment. I am seeing more cases of low back pain in fairly young individuals, even people in their early 30s."
According to orthopaedic and spine surgeon Dr Siow Yew Siong, office workers suffer mostly sprained and strained low backs as well as early degeneration of the spine due to the sedentary nature of office work.
"Sprains and strains are much more common than actual spinal diseases," said Dr Siow. "Poor sitting posture, poor office ergonomics (designing of equipment to fit the human body), wrong lifting techniques and prolonged sitting can cause sprains and undue strain to your back."
Wearing high heels can also cause the misalignment of the spine, hips, knees and ankles and result in low back pain, he added.
"Most low back pain can be treated without surgery," Dr Siow said.
The first line of treatment for low back pain is usually rest, physiotherapy and medication, he added.
Some stretching exercises can also speed up recovery and help strengthen back and abdominal muscles.
If these fail, Dr Siow said, pain-relieving injections and, as a last resort, surgery would be considered.
He added: "Sprains and strains usually abate by themselves with time, but if patients have spinal diseases without symptoms, we usually advise them to be vigilant and do back strengthening exercises."
Like most diseases, prevention is better than cure for low back pain.
In the office, employers should provide ergonomically designed equipment like adjustable seats and working surfaces, Dr Abed said.
He added that software programmes that remind computer users to take micro-breaks would also help.