a few months ago

10 Ways To Prevent Back Pain When Standing At Work 

If you're on your feet all day at work it can be bad news for your back, so learn how to get rid of this back pain from standing here.

How to prevent back pain from standing

Do you get that familiar nagging pain in your back after you've been standing up for a while? 

I know I do. 

And that annoying ache makes you feel really uncomfortable, and can mean going to things like music concerts or sporting events where you have to stand a real pain (literally). 

However, while pain from standing at social events sucks, those that are forced to stand during their working day have it far worse. 

Which is a big problem, because having to stand at work is extremely common across many industries. 

For example teachers, assembly line workers, doormen, healthcare professionals, supermarket cashiers, security guards, shop assistants (the list goes on) all need to be on their feet most of the day. 

Which can be bad news for their backs, as extended periods of standing have been shown to lead to the development of lower back pain. 

Also studies have found that workers who stand for more than 4 hours continuously have a higher amount of musculoskeletal disorders than those that don't. ​

And it's not just back pain these workers are at risk from by standing all day. 

As it can also lead to joint pain, lower limb fatigue and foot problems too. 

Bad news right?​

So if you're worried about the amount of time you have to spend standing at work, you need to learn ways to minimise it's impact.

Why Does Your Back Hurt When Standing?

Understanding why you get back pain from standing can be the first step towards getting rid of it.

And this can happen for a few different reasons such as:

  • Increased muscle co-activation - your muscles have to work harder when you are standing, which leaves them fatigued and puts your back under more pressure.
  • Lower limb fatigue - when your legs and feet get cramped and fatigued they are unable to provide your back with the level of support it needs.
  • Standing in an unhealthy posture - this causes your back to have to bear the burden of the pressures of gravity when standing.
  • Having a forward tilting pelvis - people that suffer from this usually have tight hips and weak abdominal muscles, so their backs come under more strain when standing.
  • Not being physically active - by not keeping your muscles fit, strong, and healthy outside work, they are not able to support your back and relieve the pressure.
  • Restricted blood flow - when you stand the circulation to your legs and feet lessens, which can cause them to become fatigued and leave your back with less support.

How To Prevent Back Pain When Standing

While standing up all day at work can be a real pain, it doesn't have to leave you in pain.

As by learning and practicing a few good habits you can take the pressure off your back and stand more comfortably.

So here are 10 ways you can prevent back pain when standing.

Try to implement a few of them into your daily routine and see if it helps you.

1. Maintain A Good Standing Posture

Standing with a bad posture will put your lower back under all sorts of strain and pressure.

So you need to make sure you are standing with a healthy posture that spreads the workload evenly throughout your body instead.

And to do this you need to stay aligned and balanced.

As this way your body is able to spread the pressure out evenly and you don't run the risk of any muscle imbalances developing.

So to stand with a healthy posture aim for the following:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Activate your core muscles and keep your stomach in rather than allowing your belly to stick out.
  • Stand up straight and keep your shoulders squared.
  • Keep your head up rather than allowing your neck and shoulders to slouch forward.

This way your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should all be in a straight line as you stand as if a piece of string was connecting them all.

And to see if you're doing it right stand with your back against a wall.

As the back of your head, shoulders and bum should all be touching the wall as you stand there.

For more information on how to improve your standing posture check out this article by WikiHow.

And while old habits can be hard to break, if you keep at it your body will eventually re-train itself to feel comfortable standing in this new way.

Which will have a massively positive effect for the health of your back at work.

2. Take Microbreaks

The problems with standing are not so much about standing in general, but standing for long periods of time in the same position.

As standing still puts your muscles and joints under a pressure and strain that just builds and builds, as they constantly need to be active to bear the load.

And there is nothing the body hates more than bearing the same load for an extended period of time.​

So, you need to find a way of relieving this pressure and tension and a great way to do that is by taking regular microbreaks.

As these breaks give your body something new to think about, help you to release any built up tension, and get your blood pumping again.

​So try to take a 5 minute break every half an hour to mobilise your body again and work out the tension.

Things like going for a walk or having a stretch will really help your muscles and joints to get moving.

Plus getting your blood circulating into your legs again is great as this can get cut off when you are standing still.

And if your muscles feel really tired or you can't get away from your workstation, then even a 5 minute seated break can help.

3. Shift Positions Regularly

As I've just mentioned, our bodies hate to be stuck in the same position for too long.

As our muscles tighten and weaken from the inactivity and soreness and pain are then never far away.

So take an 'ants in your pants' approach when standing.​

And instead of just standing still, try to fidget and shift your position regularly.

As simple things like shifting your weight from one foot to the other, using a foot rest to change leg positions, and practicing small movements in your hips can really help to stop the build up of tension.

And this will help improve your circulation too.

Because rather than allowing the blood to pool in your legs and feet, by moving positions you can keep it flowing towards the muscles that are working hard to keep you upright.

And this delivers the oxygen and nutrients to them that allows them to keep working without getting fatigued and tense.

4. Stretch & Mobilise Your Body

I've already gone over this one briefly in the microbreaks section.

But it's so important that I think it deserves it's own section.

Because regularly stretching your body is one of the best things you can do to prevent and reduce your back pain.

Especially when you have to stand for long periods.

Because when you're standing in the same position for so long your muscles can shorten and weaken, which makes them tight and sore.

And this can cause you many problems such muscle imbalances and developing a poor posture which puts your back under increasing strain.

However, if you stretch your body out at regular intervals throughout the day your muscles become lengthened and strengthened instead.

Which is great for your back as it gives you:

  • Increased flexibility throughout your body.
  • A greater range of movement.
  • An improved posture.
  • Increased circulation.
  • And a lower chance of picking up muscle strains and injuries on the job.

All of which will help to reduce the strain on your back as you stand and get rid of any back pain you are feeling.

Just make sure you stretch out your whole body and not just your lower back area when you do this.

As your body is all part of a connected whole and this will prevent any muscle imbalances from developing.

I've included the video above from Fitness Blender to give you some ideas of what kinds of stretches you can do.

5. Stay Active Outside Work

Keeping your muscles fit and strong by exercising regularly gives your back the strength and support it needs to be able to withstand the pressures of standing.

And this is so important.

As just 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3-4 times per week has been shown to lead to big improvements for people with chronic lower back pain.

So make sure you stay active and work in a mix of stretching, strengthening, and cardiovascular exercises into your routine for the best results because:

  • Stretching exercises like yoga and tai chi will increase your flexibility and lengthen your muscles.
  • Strengthening your core muscles with exercises like pilates will give your back stronger support.
  • Doing cardiovascular exercise like swimmingwalking and cycling helps to maintain your aerobic fitness, which is good for your heart and increases your muscle stamina.

So it's good advice to be exercising regularly in general anyway, but it will also help you out massively when you are standing at work.

And it will also help you to keep your weight down which also lessens the load on your spine.

So don't put it off or make excuses, because your back will thank you for it in the long run.

Click here for 9 forms of exercise that work well for people with back pain.

6. Alternate Between Sitting & Standing

I bet when you are standing there in pain you are dreaming of a nice, comfortable chair to plonk down into.

After all, life would be so much better if you could sit all day instead of standing up right?

Wrong!

In fact prolonged periods of sitting are just as bad (if not worse!) than the same amount of time spent standing.

However, the trick to beating back pain at work is to be able to combine them both.

Now I know that this may not be an option for everyone as your job may not allow it.

But if there's a chance to be able to switch regularly between sitting and standing throughout the day. it can make a big difference to the health of your back.

As this gives you the best of both worlds.

Because your muscles remain active while standing but get some rest while sitting.​

And this can prevent the muscle fatigue that comes with standing still too long and also help you avoid the weakened muscles that comes from too much sitting.

However, for this to work properly you need to get the sit-to-stand time ratio right.

As one study found that spending 15 minutes sitting and 45 minutes standing every hour didn't help workers with their lower back pain.

However spending 40 minutes sitting and 20 minutes standing did have a positive effect.​

Office workers have had great success with this in recent years by using sit/stand desks.

So if you have a chance to sit instead of stand for 40 minutes every hour take it!

7. Stand On An Anti-Fatigue Mat

Standing on hard and inflexible surfaces such as concrete puts your feet, joints, and body under enormous stress.

However, if you have no choice but to stand on concrete during the working day, a good way to improve the situation is by standing on an anti-fatigue mat.

As these are thick and flexible floor mats that are gentler on your feet and lower limbs and allow you to stand more comfortably.

And they can help reduce your back pain in two ways:

  • They reduce the stress and shock on your body as you stand, which lessens the load on your lower back.
  • They promote better blood circulation in your legs and feet, which helps them get more oxygen and prevent lower limb fatigue, giving your back more support.

You also have the added advantage that using one of these mats will give you a better grip, so you're less likely to suffer any slips or falls at work

So while anti-fatigue mats are not a miracle cure that will take all the pain out of prolonged standing, they can help.

And if you're interested in trying one I'd recommend the Durable Corporation Industrial Anti-Fatigue Mat.

As this has been designed for use in the workplace, so it's built to last and it could just make your shift a hell of a lot easier.

8. Wear Supportive Footwear

​Now you can probably guess that standing around in things like flip flops or high heels all day is going to give you back pain and foot problems!

But wearing footwear that is comfortable, fits well, and has good arch support instead, can really help to keep your back and feet healthy. ​

And this is a big deal is you spend a lot of time standing on concrete floors.

As concrete is such a hard and unforgiving surface that standing on it forces your joints, feet, and muscles to absorb all of the impact.

So, to avoid this you need to be wearing footwear that can absorb these shocks by having good arch support.

And you also want a pair that fits well and will be comfortable to wear all day.

So a pair I'd recommend for this purpose is the Timberland Pro Endurance Work Boots.

As these boots come with 'anti-fatigue technology' that takes the pressure off your joints and muscles as you stand, especially your lower limbs.

And they are extremely comfortable and supportive, which is exactly what you want to keep your body balanced and your feet happy.

9. Use Shoe Inserts

Another way to take the pressure off your feet and back while standing, but without having to fork out for a new pair of boots, is to add supportive gel insoles into your current ones.

As these insoles can add the support that may be lacking from your current footwear and also bring you the following benefits:

  • They make sure the weight and pressure is distributed evenly over your body as you stand.
  • This will keep your body balanced and in alignment, taking the pressure and strain off your knees and lower back.
  • They will also absorb pressure and shocks throughout the day.
  • You'll get good arch support, so they are especially good for anyone with flat feet.
  • They prevent overpronation by keeping your feet stable and aligned.
  • This keeps your feet relaxed, meaning you're less likely to suffer from fatigue during the working day.

So these orthotic gel insoles are a great idea to help relieve pain and pressure in your lower back while standing at work.

However, some full length insoles can be difficult to get inside your boots, and may raise your feet too much to be comfortable.

So the insoles I'd recommend instead are the Shoe Bubble by Soul Insole.

As rather than covering the whole of the foot, they only focus on supporting the middle section.

Which is perfect for re-distributing pressure evenly and providing good arch support.

And this also means that not only can you use them in your work boots, but they also work in your shoes, trainers, high heels and even flip flops!

They are also really comfortable to wear, with a nice gel texture.

And they are self-adhesive and washable too, so you can keep them clean and they won't start to stink out your boots after a few weeks.

So, if you want to add support to your boots, but don't want to spend a load of money on a new pair, these gel insoles are a great and affordable solution.

And your back will definitely feel the difference after a week or two.​

To see them in action, check out the video below:

10. Stand On A Sloped Surface?

The other cows never understood how Daisy managed to stay standing longer than them.

Now I'm not convinced with this one personally.

Because from my own experience I know that my back starts screaming after standing on an uneven surface, even for just a short amount of time.

But there is science to back up the benefits of standing on a sloped surface so I thought I'd include it and you can make up your own mind!​

For example one study tested how small groups of workers would react to standing on a sloped surface (at a 16 degree angle)​ rather than a flat one.

And they found that the workers using the sloped surface had:

  • Different pelvis and spinal postures while they stood which reduced the load on their lower back.
  • Less hip and trunk muscle co-activation (which is a big cause of lower back pain when standing).

Both of these factors had a positive effect on the workers and they had less lower back pain afterwards.

In fact, many requested to keep using the sloped surface afterwards.

So there might be something in this!​

And while I won't be rushing to try this out for myself, if you do fancy investigating further then the sloped surface they used in the study was the eQuilibrium Almond.

Rounding Up

As you probably already know having to stand at work all day can wreak havoc on your back.

However you don't have to keep suffering.

As by employing the tips in this article you could be on your way to a more comfortable working experience and a happier and healthier back.

So don't stand for back pain at work. Do something about it today!​

Resources used in researching this article:​

http://www.hazards.org/standing/

​http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html

https://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Feet-and-Leg-Problems-if-Standing-for-Work​

http://posturedirect.com/fix-anterior-pelvic-tilt/​

https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/standing/standing_basic.html​

https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/mats.html​

https://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/03/08/the-ultimate-guide-to-posture/

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Daniel

I'm a psychology graduate and a veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help people learn how to fight back against persistent back pain just like I have.

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