Back Pain When Walking or Standing

backpainhot1.jpgIf you have back pain when walking or standing, it would be good if you could look for cues that bring it on. Back pain just doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Something causes it. A lot of the time, it’s caused by how we move.

With that thought in mind, here are a few questions that you could ask yourself:

  • How is my posture? Slouched or straight?
  • Do I take small steps or big steps?
  • Do I swing my arms from the shoulders?

These are just a few questions that you could ask yourself. There are others that are probably more specific to your body type and activity level.

Changing Movement Patterns To Improve Back Pain When Walking

So, what’s the point?

Generally how you move let’s you know a little more about the conditions of your muscles. Remember, most cases of back pain are not caused by serious conditions. They are caused by tight and weak muscles.

For instance, if you have very little arm swing, the muscles in your torso and mid-section are probably a little tight. This tightness can lead to a sore and stiff back.

So, getting back to those questions…, what you’ll want to do is take note how you move and if changing the way you move increases or decreases your lower back pain. Keep in mind that stretching a muscle and putting more demands on it may temporarily cause an increase in pain. But, that’s not necessarily bad as long as it isn’t debilitating.

Think about this, if a weekend warrior type goes out and plays a hard game of football on Saturday or Sunday, he’s probably going to be a little bit sore on Monday morning.

But this doesn’t mean that he did something wrong or got injured. No, he just worked his muscles in ways that he’s not used to doing and his muscles are letting him know that they aren’t used to it.

Explore What Causes Your Back Pain When Walking Or Standing

By exploring how your body responds to gentle changes in the way that you move may be just what you need. And, this is something that you have direct control over. But, don’t try to do them all at once.

Go for a walk at lunch time and purposely swing your arms a little further than normal and see how you feel later. Or, for a short distance, take a longer stride and see how you feel at the end of the day.

There’s really two upsides to doing this: 1) You get a deeper understanding of your limitations. This is something that you can share with your doctor and something you know to avoid in the future.

And, 2) If by exploring different ways of walking or standing you actually reduce your pain,… Well, then, you’ve gone from doing something that always gave you pain to something that you can continue to do to relieve your back pain when walking or standing.

Some Causes Of Back Pain In Standing

Why Do I Have Back Pain When I’m Standing Up?

Have you seen this one sure sign that someone is having back pain when walking? It’s
probably so common that you don’t pay attention to it. Next time you go to the grocery store notice how many people you see leaning forward on their carts and pushing with their elbows.

While these people may not be in excruciating pain at the time, the fact that they need extra support to walk around the store is a sure indication that there is definitely some work to do. But, what do they have to work on?

 I have written several times (here and here) that I feel the majority of back pain is caused by tight and strained muscles. In fact, this site focuses on back pain relief from tight and weak muscles.

But, these affected muscles aren’t the only things that can actually cause back pain. Let’s take a look at some other things that can actually cause, or contribute, to someone having back pain when standing or walking.

Back Pain Causes In Standing : A Short List

Now, a lot of the causes of lower back pain are too many to mention here. But, with most people, when they think about severe back pain, the first thing that comes to mind is “a bulging disc”. But this is only one of the several things included in spinal anatomy that can cause problems.  A short list of potential back pain causes is as follows:

  • Intervertebral Discs
  • Vertebral Joints
  • Spinal Muscles
  • Ribs, Vertebrae, Sacrum

As far as the discs go, like everything else in the body, they are pretty resilient. Just because someone may have a bulging disc, doesn’t mean that it’s giving them any problems. Studies have been done that actually show that a significant amount of people actually have bulging discs but have no symptoms whatsoever.

However, these little buggers can cause a lot of problems when they do go bad. Generally, a disc actually has to “herniate” in order to cause severe pain. This is when the disc protrudes so much that it’s outer rings tear and cause pressure on a nearby nerve.

Most of the time walking and being upright “loads” the disc with gravity pulling down the body’s weight. This squeezes the disc more and causes more pressure or nerve root irritation. People with this problem are probably more interested in lying down somewhere to relieve the pressure on the disc. A surgical procedure called a “discectomy”, where the disc protrusion is cut away, is one way this problem is solved.

Another problem that someone could run into is arthritis in one of the vertebral joints. When I say “arthritis” I am not talking about “old age arthritis”. I just mean “joint inflammation”, or “joint irritation”.

Each vertebrae has at least 6 places that could suffer from arthritis. The back bones where the ribs attach have 10 places(!) that could be the culprits. One of the most common forms of vertebral joint irritation happens at the “facet joints”.  These are pretty small joints. If they are irritated or inflamed they can cause a lot of pain when a person has to stand up straight. Many times, a doctor may inject the joint with a steroid to reduce the pain and swelling.

Chiropractors mostly make their living “adjusting” the bones of the spine. Everyone is pretty much familiar with the “rack ’em and stack ’em” reputation that Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) have. But there is a lesser known profession of  “bone setters” out there. They are called Osteopaths, or, Doctors of Osteopathy (DO).

DOs are fully fledged doctors recognized by the American Medical Association (Chiropractors aren’t).  Like DCs, their training includes mobilizing and manipulating the bones and joints. However, in the case of the DOs, their training covers basically the whole body, while DCs only cover the spine primarily.

With that in mind DCs and DOs have long made the case that the position of the bones in the back can contribute or cause a lot of back pain. When, because of tight or weak muscles, an injury of some sort, or anything else that can cause the bones to become misaligned, the mechanics of the back are thrown off.

This is similar to a door or drawer that are not aligned correctly. They just don’t work right and you have trouble moving them. They get stuck open or closed and you have to really put in a lot of effort for them to work the right way. The bones of your body work along the same principles.

Any of the bones of the back, i.e. the ribs, vertebrae, or sacrum, can get “stuck” for whatever reason, in one position. When this happens, moving in the opposite position is usually painful. If the bones get stuck in the position of being bent forward, then it becomes a challenge to stand up straight. This is because standing up straight means you have to bend back.

A good Physical Therapist, Osteopath, or Chiropractor, should be able to help you if this is your problem. Most of the time, although it may “feel” pretty serious, it’s not.

You May Have Some Control Over Your Back Pain In Standing

The last thing that I’ll cover in this post about the different causes of back pain are muscle strains. But, dealing with the muscles is probably what’s going to be most important to the majority of people reading this.

There are two really good reasons for this. 1) According to the literature, most cases of lower back pain come from nothing more serious than strained muscles. And, 2), You, dear reader, out of all the possible causes for your back pain, only have direct control over one of the causes of back pain. Namely, your muscles!

None of us can change our bulging discs, frayed nerves, or arthritic joints. But,… we can directly stretch, contract, or ice our sore muscles.

Because back pain caused by muscle strain is usually a result of tight or weak muscles, addressing it becomes a simple matter of either stretching and/or gentle strengthening to get some good results. This is something that you can do in your own home, on your own time, without having to come “out of pocket” for any service.

In addition, it’s really helpful if you do have to seek professional medical help for back pain, if you are able to tell the doctor “hey, doc, I did this or that, and it made it worse/better”. It lets the doctor know that you’re actually taking the initiative to do something rather than just asking for some pain killers. And, in turn, the more information you give your doctor, the more information they will be able to give you back have about your condition, the easier it will be to address your back pain in standing or walking.

What Are Trigger Points?

Many people have trigger points, but what are they? In the majority of cases, back pain is due to what medical professionals refer to as “musculo-skeletal pain”. In other words, your muscle is strained or injured in one way or another.

“But, wait a minute…” you say. “I’ve had this pain for as long as I can remember. If it was caused by a muscle injury, why isn’t it healed by now?”

Well, that’s a perfectly reasonable question. And, to be perfectly honest many doctors aren’t able to answer it. That may be because they may not be too familiar with a little problem that one doctor named Janet Travell discovered a long time ago.

She was a pioneer when it came to studying muscles and muscle pain. In fact, she based her whole practice around helping people (some were pretty famous) by treating and relieving their muscle (musculo-skeletal) pain.

What Are Trigger Points?

What she discovered was that, in some cases of chronic pain, small sections of the muscle would contract and become “stuck” in that contraction. Sort of what we call a “knot” in the muscle. But, these weren’t just ordinary spasms that were relieved over time. These little “knots” could actually last for years in the same contracted state and causing lots of pain and discomfort. She called these types of muscle spasms “Trigger Points” (TP).

And, she found that the TPs acted differently than normal muscles spasms when it came to pain also. A TP will usually cause something Dr. Travell called “referred pain”.

Referred pain is when the TP is located in one part of your body, but the pain is felt in another part. She found that many cases of back pain was caused by trigger points located in the hips!

You may have asked your doctor, “What are trigger points?” but didn’t get a good answer. One reason that some doctors haven’t heard about TPs (or don’t know that much about them) is because it’s not something that they actually study alot in medical school. In fact, if you think about it, there are really no specialists that study and treat muscle pain.

Think about it…there are Neurologists and Neurosurgeons that treat the nerves. There are Cardiologists that treat the heart. There are Dermatologists that treat the skin. There are Rheumatologists, Orthopedists that treat the bones and joints….But, there are no Muscle-ologists that treat the muscles.

I don’t want to start anything…but…maybe this is one reason why there seems to be a chronic pain epidemic going on these days.

But, all is not lost. There are some solutions out there.  You may have to do a little investigating in the Yellow Pages or online to find someone who knows how to treat and relieve TPs.

There are some doctors that have studied how to treat trigger points. This is usually done by locating the perpetrators and injecting an anesthetic in and around it. This is usually pretty effective.

Also, some Physical Therapists have also been trained to treat TPs with massage and stretching. While exercises will be beneficial, specifically locating and finding the TPs is what is needed and if your Physical Therapist isn’t doing that, fire them and find someone who does.

Another alternative would be to find a good massage therapist who is familiar with how to treat trigger points. Many massage therapists have studied and specialized in relieving TPs using specific massage strokes and stretches.

And last but not least, there is the self help option. Claire (it’s a man) Davies has written an excellent book entitled “[easyazon-link asin=”1572245638″]Trigger Point Therapy for Low Back Pain[/easyazon-link]”. You will learn what trigger points are, what they do, and what you can do to relieve them, when you read this book. If you want to be more informed about what may be causing your pain this book will help.

There are also funny looking tools you can use. One is called a “[easyazon-link asin=”B000PRMCJU”]Thera Cane Massager[/easyazon-link]” and another is called the “[easyazon-link asin=”B0028P1HC0″]Body Back Buddy[/easyazon-link]”. Both of which were developed specifially for people to treat their own trigger points and muscle spasms.

The Trigger Point Workbook introduces you to how you can use them the right way.

For more information about trigger points and how to treat them, take a look at the 2 following links.

Pain Management Clinic – Valley News Live

Pain Management Clinic – Valley News Live-For nearly two decades, Paula Jo’s only solution was narcotics and sedating drugs — until she was introduced to Sanford Health’s Pain Management Clinic…

Here’s a little back ground on who brought medical attention to trigger points.

An Introduction to Dr. Janet Travell, or How My Neck Problems Became Work-Relevant – The Mary Sue

An Introduction to Dr. Janet Travell, or How My Neck Problems Became Work-Relevant-After a surprise trip to the doctor, I found out what was wrong: I had a myofascial trigger point in my neck. It’s basically a muscle knot…

022 SPASM © by antwerpenR

What are trigger points

What’s The Cause Of Back Pain?

The Most Common Cause Of Back Pain

With all of that being said, if you’re having back pain, there’s a pretty good chance that what you’re dealing with is a case of low back muscle strain or something similar. Even if you’ve gone to a Chiropractor and have been diagnosed with a “mis-aligned” lumbar spine or pelvis, chances are the reason that there is a “mis-alignment” is because of a muscle strain.

Even with people who have gone to the doctor complaining of back pain, and have had all the tests and nothing has been found…Chances are all you have is a strained back.

This is because serious conditions of the back like ruptured discs and cancer are really, really rare and easily picked up on tests. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be suffering from this. It just means that when we look at the majority of cases, only a very small percentage of cases are due to these more serious problems.

How small a percentage you ask? Well, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (Family physicians by far see the most patients for back pain. Then they refer out to specialists once a diagnosis is determined) only about 4% of yearly back pain cases are due to disc herniation. Fractures account for another 4% of the cases. Combined, that’s less than 10%!

A Statistically Rare Cause Of Back Pain

“Well, what about cancer? How many people with back pain have cancer?” Again, according to the AAFP, only 0.7% of people who go to see their doctor complaining of back pain are diagnosed with cancer. That’s less than 1 person for every 100 people with back pain.

According to medical statistics, 70% or greater, of yearly cases of back pain are because of some lumbar (lower back) strain or sprain. Check out the statistics on this page.

So, with all this in mind, probably one of the best approaches to treating your own back pain is to first find out what the cause is. After you find out the cause, ask your doctor if a gentle stretching program would be good (they will probably say “yes”).

After you’ve found a decent stretching program, start out slowly first and observe how your body is responding to each stretch. Make a mental or, better yet, a physical note of what your body is telling you and refer to it frequently to see if your body is telling you something else.

Prevent Any Further Cause Of Back Pain

Keep on this program until well after your back pain has subsided and you’re able to actually increase your activity level again doing more things like taking long walks or any other physical activities that your back pain prevented in the past.

Generally, if you’re physically active (not just physically busy), your body will get the right amount of stretching and strengthening to keep your back healthy and pain free.

If you’re suffering with back pain I would invite you to bookmark this webpage to keep handy. And come back and refer to it as you need to for encouragement or information. Best of luck to you.

Start at the beginning of this series: What is back pain a symptom of?

Back Pain: How Many People Have This Problem?

Lower Back Stretches Can Help Strained Muscles

Lower back stretches may be exactly what you need if you are trying to deal with back pain.

If you are one of the eight out of ten people who (1) suffer from back pain, (2) have been to their physicians and been told that “there is nothing that I can do for you,” (3) get through most days by taking a handful of pills that only seem to “take the edge off,” and (4) are positive that you do not have any active disease process like cancer, kidney problems, or spinal stenosis that is causing your low back pain…then this report was written especially for you.

In a study done at the University of North Carolina Medical School, researchers

“noted that more than 80 percent of Americans will experience an episode of low back pain at some time in their lives and that total costs of the condition are estimated at greater than $100 billion annually, with two-thirds of that due to decreased wages and productivity.” As one doctor explained, “Since the costs of back pain are rising, along with the number of cases, current treatments overall do not seem to be very effective.”

In another report published by the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Virtual Health Care Team ® School of Health Professions stated that “Low back pain (LBP) affects at least 80% of us some time in our lives, perhaps 20-30% of us at any given time. It is usually recurrent, and subsequent episodes tend to increase in severity. It is common in individuals who lead sedentary lives and in those who engage in manual labor. It can occur at any age but is most prevalent during the third to sixth decades of life.”

If you did a search on the FamilyDoctor.org website you may find this quote:

“Many things can cause low back injuries—muscle strain or spasm, sprains of ligaments (which attach bone to bone), joint problems or a “slipped disk.” The most common cause is using your back muscles in activities you’re not used to, like lifting heavy furniture or doing yard work”.

Lower Back Stretches May Prevent injury

And one more point, according to Jonathan Cluett, MD, “Muscle strains and lumbar sprains are the most common causes of low back pain. A low back muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers are abnormally stretched or torn. A lumbar sprain occurs when the ligaments, the tough bands of tissue that hold bones together, are torn from their attachments. (This implies that the muscle was tight in the first place)

Differentiating a strain from a sprain can be difficult, as both injuries will show similar symptoms. Many doctors refer to both injuries as a category called “musculoligamentous injuries” of the lumbar spine. In general, it doesn’t matter what you call the problem because the treatment and prognosis for both back strains and sprains is the same”.

The common myth about generic back pain is that it’s caused by “weak” back muscles. But, most people’s muscles aren’t weak; they’re tight. Remember: “A low back muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers are abnormally stretched or torn.” If you have back pain from strained muscles and you can’t remember doing anything out of the ordinary, then your muscles are probably just too tight.

Hit this muscle with a lower back stretches.

One muscle that is typically involved in many cases of lower back pain is the psoas. I wrote about it in another post. Doing some lower back stretches can actually reduce your low back pain significantly.