Back Pain and Prolonged Standing

By Diane L Thompson

You can almost identify people whose back bothers them by how they stand. They are leaning forward somewhat and frozen in place. Not good. We know we should stand with good posture yet we keep finding ourselves leaning over. The only remedy for this is constant vigilance. When your back starts trying to get your attention, check your posture first thing. This is one of the best back problem solutions.

Another posture recommendation is to stand with one foot slightly elevated. Have you ever noticed that all bars, pub, and saloons have a bar rail for people to use while standing at the bar. Coincidence? I think not. So, when you are brushing your teeth or fixing your hair, elevate one foot. If you have a sink with a cabinet, open the door and use the bottom cabinet shelf. Yes, you can brush your teeth standing up straight and with good posture. If you have a freestanding sink, bring a brick, a 4×4 board, a child’s stool, whatever into the bathroom and use that to elevate your foot.

The same is true at work. If you have to stand at work, find a way to elevate a foot. If your boss complains, explain that it is the best ergonomic situation and much less expensive than a Worker’s Compensation injury. Know what I mean? Alternate your feet frequently.

At the grocery line, use the grocery cart base. Yes, you should always use a grocery cart. You may be intending to only pick up one or two things. How often does that really happen, though? Additionally, using the grocery cart gives you other support.

Since we are in the grocery store, let’s answer the age-old question: paper or plastic? I suggest using paper bags rather than plastic bags. Most of us are tempted to carry too much when the groceries are in plastic bags. Additionally, we tend to carry things incorrectly. When you use paper bags, your tendency is to carry the bags up higher and closer to your body, which is the correct way to carry anything, light or heavy.

Standing in line at the DMV, movies, whatever, is more problematic. You could bring your own brick, I guess, but that could cause some unwarranted attention. Be mindful of your posture but here are a couple of other tricks that can help. Try a few out at home before you test standing for long stretches in the real world:

  •   Put your arms up over your head as if stretching and lean slowly to one side and then the other. Maintain your breathing. Keep your movements and your breathing slow and even. Hesitate for a moment between one side and the other to check your posture and allow your spine to reset.
  •   Put your hands in the small of your back and lean back as if rinsing your hair in the shower. Relax as much as possible while doing this keeping your breathing slow and even.
  •   Lift one knee to hip high. Grab the knee and stretch gently if you can. Again, do not hold your breath. Repeat with the other knee. Because back pain issues often affect balance, it helps to have a friend or a wall nearby when you do this maneuver.
  •   Consider using a cane because, again, taking some of the weight off of the affected side can help. Do this only if you know how to use a cane. (see below)
  •   If possible, lean against a wall, if only for a few minutes. It is amazing how restorative a good lean can be.
  •   If you have to sneeze while you are standing, lift one knee while you are sneezing. That position reduces that shot of pain you get from a really explosive sneeze.


I have tested all of these and all give some relief for a while. Worst case, weigh out the discomfort against the need to be in that line. Consider taking a friend who can hold your place for you while you sit in the uncomfortable seating offered in the waiting areas. You definitely need a cane for this or some people get a little bent out of shape because you are cutting the line.

Using a cane

Whether you are using a cane for support due to back pain or a leg injury, grip the cane in the hand opposite to the injury. It seems counterintuitive but trust me, this is how it is done. If you analyze a normal walking motion for only a moment, you can see that our left hand moves forward with our right leg with the converse being true for the next step. So the very nature of the natural walking step begs us to use the cane in the hand that moves naturally forward with the injured part. You will find that you can reduce an amazing amount of pressure from the injured side. Then you will do what I do and laugh like crazy when you see actors doing it wrong.

At Old Back Magic, we have all manner of back problem solutions from the products we sell to the Back School blog. Come by for a quick visit or drop in and stay a while.

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