During the holidays we often find ourselves standing for long periods of time while cooking, shopping, or going to parties. If you aren’t used to standing for long periods your low back may feel tight or stiff, sometimes nagging for the rest of the day.
Do not fear! This is a common problem and it is estimated that 80% of our population suffers from back pain at some point in their life. We want to share some possible causes, a few tips to prevent this from happening and some stretches to help relieve the pain when it does.
Postural Stress and Muscle Fatigue
Postural Stress - In standing, the pelvis pushes or drops forward, increasing the curve in the lower back and thus increasing the pressure on the spine and the surrounding muscles. The increased pressure on your spine can make the lower back muscles tighten and go into spasm and cause pain.
Muscle Fatigue - Without good core/abdominal muscle strength AND endurance to offset the load on the spine during prolonged standing, the muscle spasm or pinching of the nerves will occur sooner and may be more intense. People who are overweight may be at increased risk for muscle fatigue while standing for long periods.
Common Underlying Spinal Changes
If your body and spine has any underlying degenerative changes, pressure on the nerves may be increased and pain may be more intense with postural stress and fatigue. Here are some common causes of back pain...
Spinal Stenosis- This is a narrowing of the spaces along the spine which increases pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Spinal stenosis symptoms may include leg weakness, numbness in the buttocks or the back of the legs, and relief by leaning forward.
Degenerative Disc Disease - With age, the protective discs between each vertebrae may have “wear and tear”, shrinking or loss of height due to loss of water, or bulging/herniated discs. The degeneration of the disc leads to pressure between the vertebrae and along the nerves coming out along the spine.
Hyperlordosis - Also known as “swayback”, this is an excessive curvature of the lumbar spine causing the stomach to stick out and the buttocks to become more prominent. This increased curvature places pressure along the back of the spine. It also creates a muscle imbalance between the abdominal muscles and back muscles, leading to core weakness and decreased spinal stability.
Osteoarthritis - This is wearing of the cartilage along the bones in the joints, which affects the smooth movement of the bones and can cause pressure on surrounding nerves.
Pinched Nerves or Sciatica -Pain from the nerves may be caused by pressure from any of the above changes in the bones, cartilage, or muscles surrounding the spine.
How to Relieve the Pain Standing for a Long Period of Time
What if I Can't Relieve My Back Pain When Standing or Walking?
If the low back pain remedies listed above do not help, it may be worth seeing a physical therapist. We are movement specialists and can get to the root cause of your pain and assess exactly what exercises and pain relieving techniques you need to use. Click Here if you need to speak with a movement specialist!
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We help active adults get back to exercising, feeling fit, and participating in the activities they love without medications, injections, or surgery.
Catherine Courtney, PT
Specialist Physical Therapist