Have you ever felt some uncomfortable pain in lower back during long term standing position? We are sure you know what we are talking about and your respond is something like: “Of course I felt – many times” …
Ok, nothing dangerous – everything is ok with your lower back. Mr. Lower back is just a little tired of “standing” and he wants to inform you about that – he is screaming and begging for a chair (or any spinal flexion-relief movement).
Here is an explanation. Lower back muscles are postural muscles. That means that they hold us upright (along with gluteal region, hams and other muscles…), and are active non-stop during walking, standing, running or anything in upright position.
There is a good biomechanical advantage in that part of the body so we can hold upright position very long time without fatigue while standing, but so many people keep asking why we feel discomfort in lower back after a while?
Discomfort occurs simply because of the natural curve in that part of the body (the more pronounced the curve is – more pronounced the tension in muscles). That means that lower back muscles must to hold upper body (along with other postural muscles) and a constant tension in them produce a cramp that starts to hurt after a while. You DON’T have a problem with lower back – you have a problem with crampy muscles and they need rest. Furthermore, if you have lordotic lower back (excessive anterior pelvic tilt – APT) things become even worse (worse cramp, muscular shortening, pain and higher potential for intervertebral disc protrusion – and consequently pinching nerve risk). It could be a real problem!
If you try to walk around, shake your legs or something similar – the problem simply doesn’t leave you… hmmm ok, let’s try to squat with heels up. It helps definitely because the trick is in the opposite movement in lower spine – flexion, which is going to stretch lower back muscles. Of course, “butt wink” (read as lumbar flexion) occurs during lower squat positions and you can feel relief immediately (if any muscle is shortened – under a tension or discomfort, try to stretch or roll it in relaxed position – maybe that’s going to help).
Greater the “butt wink” is, greater the relief… (“Butt wink” – the right position)
Of course that you will not solve this problem with a squat position because you will feel pain in legs very soon. Or you MUST to see what’s happening in front of you (you have no intention to squat neither lie down on your rock star concert for sure – unless you are drunk or going to puke of course). Also, you can tear your trousers on well-known place.
We will reveal you NOW a small trick on how to stay longer in upright position without pain in lower back. Just squeeze glutes and abs so lower ribs come down and pelvis shift to posterior pelvic tilt (lower ribs and pelvis starting to face each other). Plus, slightly bend knees to make squeezing even easier. This position makes your lower back flatter (flexion movement) and therefore provides “pain” relief. Besides, you isometrically train glutes and abs a bit in this case (but squeeze it gently). With slightly bended knees, you will make a slight hip flexion which is good because it will be easier to make posterior pelvic tilt with less m. iliopsoas and m. rectus femoris tension (because of their slight shortening). Try to make full PPT during totally extended hips – m. iliopsoas and m. rectus femoris will not let you do it easily.
A – Neutral (or excessive) APT position
B – PPT position with slightly flexed knees
Yes, but this is not a neutral lower spine position someone would say…? This is not dangerous because the spine is not loaded by external load (nor this is an excessive range of motion). You simply need that slight lower back flexion in order to get the fully relaxing effect (posteriorly tilting the pelvis and causing the butt to “tuck under”)!
Last but not least, you can do this trick every time you feel “pain” by holding PPT position 1 or 2 mins (or even less – until pain expires), shift your body in common mode after that and when you feel pain again – repeat the process.
You will be able to stand much longer in this case so, try this simple trick next time you are in a shopping mole with your wife/girlfriend and let me know your impressions in the comments section.
Marta & Luka