Smart Standing Tips to Avoid Back Pain
Summit Orthopedics physical therapist Amanda Feeney, DPT, OCS, shares some tips for avoiding back pain if you stand all day.
We all know that sitting down all day — in an office chair at work, for example — isn’t great for your health. But standing all day — whether you’re preparing food in a restaurant or teaching in an elementary school — brings its own challenges. For some people, one of these challenges is back pain. Amanda Feeney, DPT, OCS, one of Summit Orthopedics’ physical therapists, has some smart standing tips to avoid back pain if your job keeps you on your feet.
The most important thing to keep in mind, according to Feeney, is to move between positions during the day. “Back pain tends to become an issue when people are static all day, whether they are standing or sitting. Movement is key,” she said.
Movement helps keeps joints lubricated, which allows for smooth movement. The body’s muscles also benefit from moving around from time to time. “Our joints really like to move, and our muscles get tired and achy if they are in one position for too long,” Feeney said.
How to avoid back pain when you stand all day
Here are some simple standing tips to avoid back pain:
Standing tip 1: Consider your standing position
Changing up your standing position can help relieve the pressure on your back. “Put one foot on a footrest, and alternate your feet every so often,” Feeney said.
Anti-fatigue mats can also help, but they address the symptoms rather than the underlying problem. “They can be helpful to some degree, but anti-fatigue mats are not a complete answer to back pain caused by standing,” Feeney said.
Standing tip 2: Stretch during breaks
Since movement is the antidote to standing-related back pain, another of Feeney’s standing tips is to use your work breaks to stretch or walk around. You may think that sitting during your breaks would make sense, but since sitting is another static position, it’s unlikely to help much.
Here is a stretch to try: Pull one knee up toward your chest, wrapping your arms around the front of your shin to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, and then do the same with the other leg.
Standing tip 3: Exercise
It may be counterintuitive, but exercise is a great way to undo the back strain that standing for a full work day can cause.
“Even though exercising can be tiring after a long day standing, it can help to strengthen your lower body and your core to help you tolerate those loads,” Feeney said.
Standing tip 4: For injury sufferers, prevention is key
The first three standing tips will help anyone who has to stand all day for their job. But if you have had a back injury in the past, you need to be even more careful. The best thing to do, according to Feeney, is to focus on prevention.
“Use your PT stretches and exercises before things get bad. Set expectations of how long you can stand without pain and set reasonable time limits about how long you can stand before changing positions. You know what your body will be able to tolerate,” Feeney said.
Finally, if back pain is making it difficult for you to stand at work, consult one of Summit’s physical therapists for help.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise
Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More resources for you:
Summit spine specialist Catherine Choi, M.D., discusses how to avoid losing muscle mass if you have long-term back pain.
Exercise is one of the best preventative measures we can take to maintain good health. Generally, exercise increases physical strength and improves longevity. Specific exercises can also address and improve many types of spine pain.