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.

Back Pain When Standing: What She Did To Stop It.

“You know, my back really starts to hurt when I stand for any length of time. When I am trying to do the dishes it gets so bad that I just have to find someplace to sit down. Once I am sitting my back pain goes a way and I can do a few more dishes at that point”.

This is what a friend of mine would tell me when I would visit her from time to time. In the past she had had bad knees for some time. They were so bad that it really affected the way that she walked and she actually started looking older than she was.

Well, finally she decided to have a surgery to correct her knee problem after about 1-2 years. I went to visit her once she got home from the hospital and she was raving about how much better her knees felt.

But, she told me that her back had started to hurt more and more when she tried to do anything like dishes or vacuuming or something that kept her standing for longer than 15 minutes or so.

She said “When I stand up for any length of time, my back gets sore and it just feels like I can’t stand up anylonger and I just have to sit down”.

I believed her when she said this because when you looked at her from the side it looked like she was stooping over to pick something up off the ground. She wasn’t able to straighten her knees all the way and she was bent forward at the hips.

What she was running into was extremely tight muscles on the front of the hips and the back of the knees. I told her what she needed to do was stretch out her muscles so that it wouldn’t be such a struggle to stand up straight.

We both put our heads together and came up with a plan for her. Since she didn’t have any heart problems I suggested that she lay face down on her bed for several minutes 3-4 times a day.

But, when she first tried to do this she found out that she couldn’t lay down flat. It really hurt her back when she tried to straighten out. So, I made another suggestion: “Lay on a pillow lengthwise from chin to navel and see how that feels”

“Hey, that doesn’t hurt anymore. I can do this” she responded.

While she was laying on the pillow I told her to lift one leg and then the other, keeping the knee straight when she lifted it. She didn’t have to lift them high, though. But, just enough so that the thigh came off the bed.

She did 10 or so reps with either leg and she did it 3 times during the day with the instruction to stop doing these if they caused any more pain or an increase in any negative symptoms.

After about a week I went back to see how she was doing.

“Hey! How are you doing?” she asked. “You know what I did this past weekend? I walked down the street to a birthday party. I never thought that I would be able to do that. And, my knee nor my back gave me any problems!”

I told her that was “Fantastic!” and asked, “So, what happened?”

“I kept doing those exercises you told me to do. And…I don’t even need that pillow anymore. I can lay on the bed flat and it doesn’t even hurt my back anymore. I guess I’m going to have to keep doing them and see what else happens”.

Back Pain In Standing