3 years ago

Why Do You Get Back Pain From Standing? 

Standing up for an extended period can leave your back feeling stiff, sore, and in a lot of pain. Here's why that happens and how you can fix it.

Back pain from standing

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

Because I know I do. 

And that pain isn't just annoying, it can make you feel really uncomfortable. 

Which can make going to events like music concerts or football matches where you have to stand for a couple of hours a real pain (literally). 

And it can affect your social life too, as you avoid any invitations to things where you know you'll be on your feet most of the time.

However, while this pain from standing sucks, it's an even bigger problem for those that have to stand during their work day. 

So if you're a teacher, bouncer, healthcare professionals, supermarket cashier, security guard, or shop assistant (the list goes on) you could be in trouble. 

As extended periods of standing have been shown to lead to the development of lower back pain. 

And 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.

But why does standing cause you so much pain?

And what can you do to avoid it?

Read on and I'll reveal all!

Why Does Your Back Hurt When Standing?

There are many factors involved with developing lower back pain from standing and they all add their own nasty contributions.

But getting to know them is the first step towards being able to avoid it.

So let's go through them one by one.

1. Increased Muscle Co-Activation

When you're standing your body is under constant pressure from the forces of gravity to keep your it upright..

And as a consequence certain muscles have to work a lot harder than normal.

This is especially true of your hips, trunk, and gluteus medius muscles, which all have to go into overdrive at the same time.

And an increase of muscle activation in all these areas at once has been shown to lead to the development of lower back pain.

This happens because when they are activated together they are less able to offer support to your back.

Which means your back has to take more of the pressure and strain as you stand, which leaves it sore, tense and painful.

2. Lower Limb Fatigue

Your leg muscles and tendons also have to work hard constantly to support your body weight as you stand.

Which means long periods of prolonged standing will result in these muscles and tendons becoming tired and fatigued.

And what doesn't help is that the blood supply to the legs reduces when you are stood up.

This means they don't get the right amount of oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Which is bad for your back.

Because fatigued lower limbs will again mean your back won't be receiving the right amount of support.

And this will put your back muscles under increasing pressure.

3. Standing With An Unhealthy Posture

Maintaining a healthy posture is vital for staying pain-free, whether you are sitting, standing, or moving around.

This is because you need to keep your body balanced to relieve the pressures of gravity that it's constantly exposed to.

As when your body is aligned and balanced (in a healthy posture) it can spread out the pressure evenly.

However, when you stand or sit with a bad posture your body becomes unbalanced.

Which leads to it having to compensate and some muscles having to work much harder than others.

And this extra strain results in greater pressure and strain on your lower back, muscles, and joints.

Which will only ever lead to more muscle tightness and more pain!

And unfortunately many people stand with an awkward and unbalanced posture without even realising it.

Which is making standing far more painful than it should be for them.

Common mistakes include standing with your bottom sticking out, your stomach sticking out, your neck hanging forward or having a flat back and hunched shoulders.

However, you can retrain your body to improve your posture which will be a massive help.

4. Having A Forward Tilting Pelvis

This guy doesn't give a 'Donald Duck' about his posture.

Photo credit: Tom Simpson

This one is a follow on from standing with a poor posture and is increasingly common for people that sit or stand in the same position for hours each day.

As having a forward tilting pelvis (also known as sway back or Donald Duck syndrome) is bad news for your back.

This occurs when your stomach protrudes forward while your bottom sticks out (just like Donald!).

It's usually caused by having tight hip muscles and weak stomach muscles.

And this combination of tight hips and weak abs is a nightmare for your back, as it forces the spine to curve out of shape.

Which leads to muscle imbalances puts your lower back under more pressure and forces it to work harder than it should.

And this will leave you with tired, tense, angry, and painful muscles as you stand unless you sort it out and neutralise your pelvis again.

5. Not Being Physically Active Enough

Our bodies are designed to move and regular physical activity throughout the day is vital for maintaining strong and healthy muscles.

However, in the modern world so many of us live a life that is far too sedentary.

And this is especially the case during working hours, when we are forced to sit or stand still for long periods of time.

The problem with this is that when you are sitting or standing still your muscles will eventually weaken and tighten, which causes:

  • Your range of motion to become restricted, making you less physically able.
  • Less flexibility and increased muscle soreness.
  • Muscle imbalances to form as the body is forced to compensate for weakened muscles.
  • An overworked lower back that doesn't get the amount of support it needs.

And the irony is that these problems that come from standing in the same position for a long time will make it even more painful to stand up in the future!

So make sure you move around during your breaks and stay active outside of work to keep your muscles strong and supportive.

6. Restricted Blood Flow

When you are standing for an extended period of time it can mess with your blood circulation, especially to your legs and feet.

And this is important, because we rely on good circulation to deliver oxygen and nutrients to our muscles to keep them strong and healthy.

This is why you may experience muscle cramps, pain, and inflammation in your lower limbs while standing.

Because muscles that are starved of oxygen and nutrients can't keep up with the physical demands placed on them while standing.

Now this will most commonly affect your legs and feet.

However, the knock-on effect is that as your legs and feet become cramped and tired, your lower back will have to pick up the slack and work harder to maintain your balance.

So you don't just end up with leg and foot cramps, you get lower back pain too!

Further Dangers Of Long Periods Of Standing

Unfortunately the pain from standing isn't limited to your back.

As it can also lead to:

  • Pain in your joints such as your knees and ankles.
  • Tightness and pain in your neck and shoulders.
  • Foot pain.
  • Bunions.
  • Varicose veins.
  • Muscle fatigue.
  • Problems with circulation that can lead to dizziness, lack of concentration and energy, and shortness of breath.

And a recent study has found that people who stood for prolonged periods were twice as likely to get heart disease than those who spent the time sat down.

So if you spend a lot of time standing up, you need to find ways to minimise it's impact.

How To Get Rid Of Back Pain From Standing

Standing up all day can be a killer for your back, but it doesn't have to leave you in pain.

Because by making a few small adjustments and getting into some good habits you can take the pressure off your back and stand more comfortably.

And there are plenty of things to try such as:

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

Click here to find out more about these techniques.

Rounding Up

Standing for extended periods of time can be really hard on your body, and could be a cause of your back pain.

As the extra pressure and work this places on your body means your back doesn't get the support it needs and comes under increasing strain.

However you don't have to keep suffering.

Because by getting into some good habits as you stand you can minimise it's impact and have a happier and healthier back as a result.

So don't stand for back pain, do something about it today!

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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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