While bending, twisting and lifting are the more oft-cited culprits of lower back pain, being on your feet all day in the presence of poor postures isn’t doing your back any favors, says Shoreline physical therapist Bruk Ballenger. Fortunately, he added, it is possible to stand up to back pain, protecting your body from the rigors of spending hours on your feet.
“Standing puts stress on your lower spine because when you’re upright, your center of gravity and the weight of your torso shifts to your lower back,” said Ballenger, owner of Prevail Physical Therapy in Shoreline. “This can take a toll on people who, through work or otherwise, are required to stand for long periods of time. If your ab and back muscles are weak, they won’t support the spine as well over the long term, putting strain on the muscles and ligaments in the lower back.”
For teachers, retail clerks and checkers, servers, tellers, contractors and others who spend hours a day on their feet, such lower-back stress can lead to pain and increase the risk of injury. Back pain, after all, is responsible for one-third of all work-related disability in the world, according to an international study published in the medical journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases in March of 2014.
“Fortunately, if you’re someone who stands quite a bit throughout your day, there are precautions you can take to save your back while on your feet,” said Ballenger, who offers the following advice:
Practice Good Posture: When standing, keep your shoulders back, your abdomen in and your feet hip-distance apart. Also, balance your weight evenly on both feet with your hands hanging along your sides.
Care for Your Feet: A healthy back starts with a solid foundation: your feet. And proper and comfortable shoes can help take pressure off the spine. Standing on a floor or cushion that has some give can also help.
Get Moving: Mix standing with some regular walking in order to stretch your muscles and provide relief to your spine. If walking’s not an option, work more subtle movements into your day by shifting your weight, standing on your toes, lifting your legs from the floor, reaching your hands overhead and doing back bends forward and back.
Improve Your Environment: Adjusting your environment to decrease the need to bend, lean or twist while providing space for subtle stretching and movement can do wonders for your back, Ballenger said. Also, adjust your work height to avoid constantly looking down.
If you already experience back pain from long-term standing or other unknown causes visit Prevail Physical Therapy for an examination and pain assessment with a licensed physical therapist. A physical therapist can devise a pain relief and treatment plan catered specifically to you, your limitations and your lifestyle.