Do you have a job that requires you to stand all day in one spot with minimal moving? Some examples would be cashiers, assembly line workers, lab technicians, and hair stylists. These types of jobs require standing in one spot with infrequent walking. Unfortunately, this type of static standing wreaks havoc on your back and can cause fairly significant pain. But solutions can be found to make your day a lot easier.
First off, why is it so hard on your back? When you are standing, the vertebrae in your back load nicely on top of each other with the vertebral discs in-between. Standing itself is not bad posturally, but for long periods of time it is. If you don’t change the position of the lumbar spine (lower back) periodically, the muscles and tendons surrounding the vertebrae get tired and can’t support the back as well. This results in increase lumbar compression meaning that the discs are being squished between the bony vertebrae. After much lumbar compression over time, there is a possibility of the disc herniating which means that it could slip out of its space between the vertebrae. When this happens, the disc may touch a nerve root and that’s when the real pain begins.
So to avoid this happening, the following can be implemented:
- Wear shock absorbing shoes such as running shoes. A rubberized sole lessens the forces from standing and compressing the spine. If you can’t wear running shoes, try a rubberized insert such as Spenco or Scholls Orthoheel. Make sure the insert is shock absorbing – many insoles are not.
- Use an antifatigue mat. These shock absorbing mats perform the same function as an insert. Once again, make sure the mat is thick and rubberized for maximal shock absorption.
- Work at the proper height. If your work area is too low, you will bend at the waist and compress the vertebrae further.
- Take a load off by raising your foot. Have you ever wondered why some people at the pub can stand at the bar seemingly all night? Check out the foot rail surrounding the bar. When patrons put one foot on the rail, the position of their pelvis changes and pressure is taken off their lumbar spine. You can find the same relief at your job. Get a foot stool or put your foot on a shelf, 6-8 inches from the ground. Your back will thank you.
- Stand against a wall. If a stool is not an option, find a wall and put your back against it. Place your hand in-between your low back and the wall. Press your back against your hand for 5-10 seconds. This changes the position of your pelvis and relieves low back discomfort.
- Use a sit-stand stool. Taking breaks to lean and halfway sit down throughout the day will reduce compression. Here is an example of what a sit-stand stool looks like http://www.labsafety.com/lyon-sit-stand-stool-seat-height-23-12—33-12h_s_27282/
Taking care of your back and reducing compression will do wonders. Don’t forget proper rest breaks – this is your chance to sit and take a load off.