Research

Prolonged sitting - or standing - and thrombosis risk

In concerning news - given how much time many workers spend in static positions - a review has highlighted the link between prolonged sitting and standing at work and lower limb venous diseases like varicose veins and potentially deadly deep vein thrombosis. This has led the researchers involved to urge employers to intervene. 

According to occupational and epidemiology researchers from Toulouse University Hospital and other French institutions, their study is the first systematic review of this link. They say their findings demonstrate the need for affected workers to regularly change position between sitting, standing and walking. They should also engage in leisure-time physical activity.

From 21 studies on the link between occupations and lower limb varicose veins, the researchers found a significant dose-response effect with time spent standing. They found that while the identified threshold for harmful exposure is inconsistent between the studies, standing for more than three to four hours per day appears to increase the risk of varicose veins by up to two-and-a-half times compared to less standing. One study found standing for more than 75 per cent of the time at work is associated with an increased risk of varicose veins, and the degree of severity is relative to the number of years a worker has worked in a particular occupation.

There were 13 articles examining the occupational risks for venous thromboembolism, a deadly disease that includes deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, with most focusing on prolonged sitting as a risk factor. 

One study found each increase in mean hours spent seated at work is associated with a 10 per cent higher risk of thromboembolism. It also found workers eating lunch at their desk significantly increases thromboembolism risk that is not alleviated by having an adjustable chair and leg stretching.

The researchers said that preventative measures for workers suffering from deep vein thrombosis include taking regular breaks to stretch and move the legs, implementing reminder systems that encourage workers to get up regularly, sitting in a reclined posture and using a foot rest. 
Source: OHSAlert.  
Huo Yung Kai, et al, Lower limb venous and arterial peripheral diseases and work conditions: systematic review. [abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first May 2020, doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-106375.

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