Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic

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  • It only hurts when I stand...

It only hurts when I stand...


This week, I thought I’d try to explain a phenomenon a lot of people will be familiar with.  Why is it, when you’re moving around doing different bits and pieces or walking briskly, your back is fine, but when you are just standing around or wandering slowly it starts to really ache after a comparatively short time?

The answer is actually a combination of physics and the usual answer to any question of why something hurts…core strength and posture!

First, let’s take a look at how your back is supposed to be.  As an upright beastie, humans have a spine which naturally has a few curves in it, so that if we were to look at you from the side, it looks something like this:


Now, these curves are what allow us to stand upright, while still bending and flexing around to be fully mobile.

Then physics come in – you see, there’s gravity acting on all of us, so that when we are upright it’s as though we have something pushing down from on top.  If you think about anything that’s wave-form, apply pressure from one end of the waves and it will concertina up like this:


Not a good look for your back!  This very exaggerated, sway back pose will be extremely painful to experience.  Our core muscles are designed to act against the effect of gravity, bracing either side of the arch and supporting the normal curves of your spine and preventing this slide into pregnant-lady posture:

 o why does it start to hurt when you stand upright for a while? Because most people have a weak core structure, which doesn’t sufficiently resist that gravity-induced collapse of your normal spine structure and allows things to collapse.  Not only does this but strain on the joints in your spine by jamming them all together, but over time it allows the muscles of your back to tighten because they no longer have to stretch over as much distance:


 This then causes pain when you try and straighten up because the muscles are now too short to allow the curve to stretch back out, and also encourages your spine to stay in that very poor posture, making the muscles even shorter, the muscles at the front even weaker, your posture even worse….etc!

So that’s why it hurts when you stand for long periods without the benefit of good core strength and posture.  It hurts more when you are standing still or only wandering around slowly simply because you are effectively staying in the same posture for a longer period, meaning you are using the same muscles continually, allowing what little muscle strength there is to fatigue – think of it like trying to hold a heavy weight straight out at arm’s length.  Your arm will quickly tire, the muscles will be unable to support the weight and will allow it to sink towards the ground.  When you are walking around briskly or doing a variety of tasks, there is much greater variation in the muscles you are using and so each one is able to last longer because it is sharing the load with others and getting a bit of rest time for itself (think swinging a weight from your arm over holding it straight out in front of you – you can probably swing for much longer than you can statically hold!).

Once again, then, the reasons behind why something hurts are simply through a lack of core strength and incorrect posture.  It sometimes feels like I spend an inordinate amount of time banging n about those two factors, but perhaps after all this time you are beginning to see just how important they are in preventing back pain and injury?

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TF11 9BQ

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