Standing. Even if you have a relatively sedentary office job, you quite often still find yourself standing for long periods. Whether it is doing the weekly shop at Tesco, watching your kid’s football game or walking around the garden centre at the weekend, it’s not that uncommon to spend hours at a time on your own two feet.
And that can be quite painful for some people. I frequently here the comment “I’m ok to start with, but gradually my low back starts to ache to the point where I just have to rest for a bit”. This is also usually followed up with “but then once I’ve even just crouched down for a second, it’s fine again and I can carry on”. What causes this strange phenomenon?
Unfortunately, it’s the usual culprit. Posture.
As we stand, gravity is working on us. If you imagine a great weight pressing down on your head as you stand upright, you can imagine that the gentle front-to-back curves we are supposed to have in our spine become exaggerated. In your low back, this is particularly noticeable – and problematic.
All the joints in your spine are down the back of the column. If you are increasing the curve in your lower back, you will be forcing all those joints onto each other. Ramming the two halves of any joint together is bound to be painful, and it’s no different in your back.
What’s the answer to this problem then? Again, the usual culprit. Core strength and control.
Seriously, I’m starting to sound like a stuck record, but having good core strength and control, and good posture, is so vitally important that it simply can’t be emphasised enough.
The only way you are going to be able to fight the pull of gravity is by using the tiny supportive muscles around your spine to hold it in the correct curve. The reason it takes a little time for the pain to start as you are standing up is that even if you have very little core strength, the muscles will have a go at keeping you in place. But then they fatigue, and simply can’t do it anymore, so you end up collapsing into the curve.
To improve your core strength, exercises such as Yoga, Pilates or the set of exercises I can give you are perfectly good. You then have to learn how to use that strength. The best way to combat that nagging stood-too-long pain is by consciously flattening out your lower back. Women usually find this concept pretty easy – ladies, just tuck your bum underneath you but keep your upper back upright and your knees straight (not locked, just straight).
Men – for some reason you lot struggle with this idea. So for practice, find a blank space of wall, and stand with your back against, feet a couple of inches away from the wall and about hip-width apart. Your bum, shoulderblades and the back of your head should all be touching the wall. Now, without letting anything come off the wall, try to press your low back against the wall. Once you have the idea of this move, you can start applying it as you stand away from the wall and as you walk around.
So another cause of back pain that can be so easily addressed!