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 Bryan Cummings, PT, a physical therapist and clinical director at New Life Physical Therapy’s Baraboo clinic. Fortunately, he added, it is possible to stand up to back pain, protecting your body from the rigors of spending hours on your feet.
When you are upright, gravity has an advantage against your postural muscles, especially when abnormal postures are dramatic such as a forward head or scoliosis, Cummings said. Over time, your postural muscles and spinal joints fatigue and pain can set in. This can take a toll on people who, through activities with recreation and work, are required to stand for long periods of time.
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 a person who stands a lot throughout your day, there are steps you can take to save your back while on your feet, Cummings said. He offers the following advice:
Practice Good Posture: When standing, says Cummings, 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, Cummings says.
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, Cummings suggests working 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: According to Cummings, 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. Also, adjust your work height to avoid constantly looking down.
If you already experience back pain from long-term standing or other unknown causes, New Life Physical Therapy’s new walk-in wellness program, NowCare for Back Pain, provides new clients with an affordable examination and pain assessment with a licensed physical therapist, all without the need for an appointment.
NowCare for Back Pain is offered at all three of New Life’s locations in Portage, Baraboo and Westfield.