Lower back pain when standing can be caused by a more specific set of conditions. If you usually only feel discomfort in your lower back when you stand, it will be easier to diagnose the root cause than just attempting to diagnose lower back pain in general.
However, this type of pain can also range greatly in terms of severity. It can be as simple as minor pain from muscle fatigue due to excessive standing.
On the other end of the spectrum, you could also experience agonizing pain from degeneration of your spine, such as spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease.
We’ll cover all the common causes of lower back pain when standing, and then we’ll share some ways you can alleviate the pain or discomfort you feel.
What are the most common causes of lower back pain when standing?
As we mentioned earlier, you can look for other symptoms you are experiencing to hammer down exactly what condition you are dealing with.
Oftentimes, you won’t just feel lower back pain in general, there will be other signs you can look for to get a better idea of what you’re dealing with.
We’ll start with the least serious conditions and work our way up to conditions that warrant a doctor or hospital visit.
Muscle fatigue or soreness
Sometimes, your lower back pain is caused from just working your muscles too hard. When you stand upright, you may not realize it, but your spinal erectors and core are working hard to keep you stable and balanced. If you are overweight, this pain and inflammation in your lower back will be exacerbated.
So, if you spend a day walking or standing in lines, there is a good chance your pain is nothing more than just overuse. Luckily, this type of pain will go away within a couple days in most cases. You can speed up the recovery with rest, ice or heat, anti-inflammatories, and lower back stretches. If your pain lasts more than a week or two, it is likely you are struggling with something more than just fatigue or soreness.
Muscle related injuries
Another common cause of lower back pain when you stand is some sort of muscle related injury, such as a strain or tear.
The symptoms you experience from this condition are very similar to general muscle fatigue or soreness, but they will persist longer and be more painful.
The specific type of pain won’t be just general soreness, but rather a pinching, sharp pain in a specific area of your back – at the site of your injury.
Oftentimes, a muscle related injury will resolve itself. But sometimes, you may need to go through physical therapy.
Degeneration of the spine
With age, degeneration of the spine is almost inevitable. Your spine is made up of vertebrae, which have discs between them to protect from bone on bone contact.
After a certain point, your discs will degenerate, and your vertebrae will start grinding against each other. This can cause severe pain, along with further deterioration.
The specific name for this condition is degenerative disc condition, and it can lead to another condition we will mention, lumbar spinal stenosis.
Not a ton can be done to prevent this condition, but there are a few ways to manage the pain you’ll experience. Staying active, using ice/heat, over the counter painkillers (sparingly), and physical therapy are all great ways to manage lower back pain when standing.
Lumbar spinal stenosis
Now we are in the category of degenerative spine conditions. Lumbar spinal stenosis, sometimes just referred to as spinal stenosis, is a condition where your spinal canal actually narrows.
This squeezes the spinal cord and surrounding nerves, and causes severe pain. Stenosis can occur in any area of the back, but it is most prominent in the lumbar region.
Because of this, you may feel the severity of the pain increase when you stand. In contrast, you will experience relief from your pain when sitting or laying. Other symptoms to look for include:
- Weakness in your legs, with less endurance when standing or walking
- Sciatic pain which radiates from your lower back into your lower legs, and down into your feet
- Numbness or tingling in the lower back, glutes, or legs
This is a common cause of lower back pain in elderly in particular, as your chances of experiencing it increase with age. But, it can occur in those born with narrow spinal canals at any point in their life.
Treatment for this is generally just about managing the pain and symptoms, such as physical therapy, steroid injections, NSAIDs, and chiropractic/acupuncture treatments.
This is another spinal condition that can cause severe lower back pain when standing. With hyperlordosis, the spine curves inwards, which causes the glutes to stick out further while your stomach extends the other way.
This leads to severe imbalances in your pelvis, and can cause a ton of pain especially when standing for long periods, or walking.
This condition can be caused by an injury, poor posture, obesity, or bone conditions such as osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis.
Treatment depends on how severe your condition is and your age. If you are still growing, a back brace can be all it takes to correct the issue.
If your spine is developed and you are older, however, physical therapy, weight management, and NSAIDs is your best bet.
Is lower back pain while standing cause for a hospital visit?
Oftentimes, your lower back pain when standing is just caused by overuse or a spine issue. There is usually no need for a hospital visit, but seeing a doctor is the best way to diagnose your specific back issue.
After that, you’ll be able to come up with a more optimized treatment plan, and you can start feeling better quickly!
How to manage lower back pain while standing
Whether your job requires you to stand for long periods, or you are visiting Disneyland and know you’ll be standing, there are some things you can do to decrease the lower back pain you feel when standing.
Start by making lifestyle changes. Strengthen your core, as a weak core often leads to many back issues. You should also evaluate your current footwear. A lot of shoes have terrible arch support, which can lead to lower back pain when standing. Heels should be out of the question!
You can also take more frequent backs from standing if possible, to alleviate some of the pressure on your back.
Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.