Sometimes evolution leaves a lot to be desired, and human spines are proof of that. Namely, it’s virtually impossible to grow old without developing some sort of back pain, and a variety of conditions can lead to lower back pain when standing or walking. In short, your spine is more or less a ticking time bomb, so it’s important to know what to do about low back pain.
Today, I’m covering just why human backs are so prone to spinal injury, what types of conditions might be causing your back pain, and what you can do if your lower back hurts when standing or walking.
Why Do Human Backs Suck So Much?
Even if you take perfect care of your spine (and most of us don’t), you’ll be lucky to get 40 or 50 years without back pain. Sooner or later, pressure on your back is going to cause some sort of problem. So we have to ask, why are our spines so determined to be damaged?
When you stand up straight, you’ve probably noticed that your spine isn’t a straight line. It’s more of an “S” shape, and you don’t need to be an architect to figure out that that’s not the most stable structural design out there.
For a long time, our evolutionary ancestors had stiff, rigid spines that were great for tree climbing. But as they started to stand upright, the spine had to adjust course, which led to the inward curve in your lower back that supports your head and torso. But over time, that curve leads to pressure settling in certain areas, which is how most people develop lower back pain when standing or walking.
Now that we’ve got a bit of background into our unfortunate spines, let’s take a look at what could be causing your lumbago (which is an old medical term for lower back pain).
What’s Causing My Lower Back Pain When Standing or Walking?
If you experience severe lower back pain when standing or walking, you’re not alone. There are over three million cases of lower back pain in the US each year, and it’s not unusual for symptoms to get worse while standing or walking. Let’s look at some of the most common causes.
Spinal Stenosis in the Lumbar
Spinal stenosis is a medical term for the narrowing of the spine. This can be a normal sign of aging, but it’s especially uncomfortable when it happens in the lumbar, or lower spine. This pain isn’t typically too bad, especially if you sit down or lean forward while walking. But lower back pain when standing or walking sadly is not the only symptom of spinal stenosis.
Other common signs of lumbar spinal stenosis include:
- Feelings of weakness in the legs
- Numbness or tingling, especially in the lower back, thighs, or buttocks
- Sciatica, which is a sharp, sometimes burning pain in the legs
Without proper treatment, sciatica can also lead to more serious issues, including bladder incontinence and sexual dysfunction. Thankfully, physical therapy and the use of NSAIDs can usually prevent the worst of these symptoms.
Remember how the curve in your spine is responsible for most of your spinal woes? Well if you’re having lower back pain when standing or walking, it could be due to hyperlordosis, which is a condition where your spine curves inward even more than in most people.
This can put even more pressure on your lower back, which means lower back pain when standing or walking. In people with hyperlordosis, it’s not uncommon to feel severe lower back pain after standing for long periods of time.
If you have hyperlordosis, you might notice an exaggerated c-shape in your lower back. In children, this is usually corrected with a back brace, but it cannot be as easily changed in adults. For patients who identify this later in life, the best that medicine can do is minimize symptoms through pain relievers and physical therapy. In severe cases, corrective spinal surgery may be an option, although this is typically not an option for moderate or mild cases.
Between each vertebrae in your spine is a thin, jelly-like disk. And since they’re important for proper spinal function, any injury or alteration to them can easily cause lower back pain when standing. Some of the most common ways this happens are through:
- Bulging disk
- Herniated disks
- Degenerative disk disease
All of these causes will lead to similar symptoms, namely pain in the lower back when standing or walking and tingling or numbness in the legs. Since disk problems often present with similar issues, the best way to get a diagnosis is to speak with your physician. They will ask questions about your history and may order imaging tests in order to determine the cause and treatment plan for your lower back pain.
Everyday Changes You Can Make to Ease Lower Back Pain
If you have severe lower back pain when standing or walking, then the best thing you can do is ask your doctor about potential causes and treatments. But if you’re looking for immediate relief, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to address your lumbar pain.
If you experience chronic back pain when sitting down, then try to change your surroundings so that sitting is not the norm. A standing desk is a great way to continue working without putting additional pressure on your lumbar.
Or, if standing causes uncomfortable back pain for you, try placing a stepping stool near places where you often stand, like by your bed or couch. When you stand up, put one foot on the stool to minimize curvature in the spine and ease your back pain.
And in case it needs to be said, avoid high heels at all costs if you’re having lower back pain. High heels make the lower spine curve even more, which means more pressure and more pain, especially if you’re standing for long periods of time.
Lower back pain when standing or walking makes it hard to accomplish important daily tasks. So use this information to make spine-healthy lifestyle choices, and talk to your doctor about chronic back pain to see what you can do to manage or eliminate your pain.
What Eases Your Lower Back Pain When Standing?
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