Standing on the Job?
10 Ways to Reduce Back Pain
Tips for a healthier back for those who work on their feet.
Back pain is the most common work-related injury and one of the biggest causes of back pain is repetitive motion. So imagine what happens when you do the same thing all day: stand.
As a stylist, chef, nurse, waiter, or someone who works on an assembly line, you’re on your feet all day, and that can reek havoc your back, in particular your lower back. When we stand, our body compresses and our weight shifts downward. We end up with swollen feet, reduced circulation, decreased flexibility, and sometimes severe and debilitating back pain.
But there are some things you can do to be proactive about keeping your back pain-free. Here are some feel-good tips to keep you standing tall, when all you want to do is lie down on the job:
- Wear supportive shoes. Support doesn’t necessarily mean sneakers. There are a slew of comfort brands out there that will give you the support you need and still keep you in line with dress code. Also, keep in mind; your feet tend to swell when you’re on your feet all day, so size those shoes appropriately!
- Nix the heels. This goes hand in hand with # 1. This might only apply to the ladies, but heels will alter the angle of your hips and pelvis and place more stress on your back and feet.
- Get shifty. Just because you’re standing on two feet, doesn’t mean you have to keep still. Shifting your weight, lifting your heels, moving from side to side on your toes, all of these things help improve the blood flow and circulation in the bottom of your legs. Improved circulate will release tension where we hold it the most-our backs.
- Get proper posture. It might seem like more work to stand up straight, but your back will thank you at the end of the day. If you stand with your butt sticking out and a big arch in your lower back, your lower back is going to bear more weight over the course of the day. Tuck your tailbone under your pelvis and keep your lower abdominals engaged. They will help protect your spine.
- Standing stretches. Granted, there’s not always a good time to stick your arms up in the air and sway back and forth like a dancer while you’re waiting tables, but you have to make time to move your muscles in different ways. One good stretch is to reach your arms over your head and, engaging your abdominals, stretch your torso from side to side to relieve pressure in your lower back. You can also stretch your lower back by bending forward at the hips and letting your trunk release forward over your legs.
- Reduce swelling. The most natural solution to swelling is to put your pain on ice. Applying cold compression to your back will not only reduce inflammation but also relieve pain. Also, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help when you’re having a particularly tough time, though taking pain medications repeatedly may have serious gastrointestinal side effects so this isn’t the best solution for every day pain.
- Face your tasks head on. This may seem intuitive, but make sure you face what you are doing to avoid imbalances, awkward postures, or excessive twisting and turning.
- Stand like a stork. Not only is it good to move your weight from one foot to another, but it will also help relieve pain if you stand with one foot slightly more elevated. It’s not always feasible but when it is, having one foot elevated or resting on something else will help avoid stiffness in your back and legs.
- Get hands on. There’s not always an opportunity to get a full body massage, but our bodies react to stimulation. One way to improve circulation and release tension is massage—and in the absence of a professional massage therapist sometimes simply digging in with our own two hands can be helpful.
- Get other exercise. Doing different things will strengthen your overall muscle tone. Don’t let your job be the only workout your body gets. It can be as simple as doing some back bends when you get home or biking occasionally to engage a different set of muscles, but keeping your movements varied—even when you’re off the clock—will help keep any damage the workday might cause at a minimum.
Barring a complete change in work environment it can be impossible to stay off your feet during the workday. With a little effort, and some smart choices in footwear, however, it can be possible to reduce or even avoid back pain.