love the music, but ohhhhh my achin' back!
October 2, 2005 12:07 PM   Subscribe

How can I alleviate (or prevent) back pain caused by standing too long at shows?

I'm not that old, but going to shows makes me feel old because by the time it's over I just want to roll up in a ball because my back is killing me. The combination of hard concrete and standing for hours is not a good one. I've found that dancing around helps somewhat, but what to do at shows that aren't danceable? I'm on my feet much of the day at work, and I don't usually have the same problems (I assume because I spend more time walking, crouching, and generally moving about). Is there a certain way I can stand to help this?

I realize that things like having better posture and stronger back muscles might help too...I'm just not sure how to achieve this either. This is a good thread for posture suggestions, but I'm willing to take any others.
posted by jetskiaccidents to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have similar issues with seeing shows. It's the primary driving force behind my personal policy of 'no opening acts I haven't heard of'.

Some things I learned in a brief fling with pilates have helped, so you might try taking a beginner class in that. It's mostly about building up your abdominal muscles (which are far more important for this than your back muscles, near as I can tell) and core stability. Keeping my abs in takes concentration and makes my abs tired, but doesn't generate the same kind of sheer pain that my back can end up in. Even practicing sitting up straight in your chair when you're at dinner and such can help contribute to your skill in this area.

Another thing I've found is that balancing weight is important. Don't carry a purse, as it tends to pull to one side and mess up your posture.

If you've got a wall to lean against, on the other hand, a small purse can make for great lumbar support. Leaning forward on things seems to make things worse, even if it feels like a relief at the time. Leaning backwards doesn't have quite the same problem.

These aren't full solutions. I still have back pain after shows, but they've helped me some.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:20 PM on October 2, 2005

Take something you can use to elevate one foot a couple of inches, and alternate which foot you rest on it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:21 PM on October 2, 2005

1. Don't go to shows. You're too old for that sort of thing. (I'm >40 and I've had this problem for years.)
2. Make sure your shoes have good arch supports.
3. During the show, frequently stretch your lower back muscles by -carefully- bending over to touch your toes; if you have to bend your knees a little to touch your toes, that's okay.
4. Get on a daily exercise regimen to strenghthen your back. Sorry, don't have a link for that.
posted by neuron at 12:23 PM on October 2, 2005

Bend your knees slightly when you are standing-don't lock them. And good shoes will do wonders. As much as you may hate the idea of hanging out with hipsters wearing your gym shoes, a pair of New Balances will do wonders. Stretch out between sets.
posted by slimslowslider at 1:04 PM on October 2, 2005

I'm only 22 and my back has always hurt when standing at shows. Four tips that I've learned are:

1) Wear the right shoes.
2) Don't lock your knees. That is, just bend them ever so slightly.
3) Stand close to the stage, a wall, or a column so you've got something to lean on.
4) If the venue has a bar with a view of the stage, find a spot and enjoy the show from there. For one thing, there's probably seating. And if there isn't, a few drinks will make the standing more tolerable.

On preview, what slimslowslider said...
posted by Jon-o at 1:09 PM on October 2, 2005

Response by poster: neuron - for the record, I'm about half your age and not going to shows is not an option right now.

Good advice so far...I sometimes try to keep my knees bent, but it feels so weird. I'll try some more though.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 1:20 PM on October 2, 2005

I drink heavily at shows. Therefore I spend most of my time on trips to the bar and restroom, and am not stuck standing in the same position for tens of minutes at a time. I have back problems at shows with no bar.
posted by nowonmai at 2:18 PM on October 2, 2005

I noticed that back pain from standing at shows disappeared when I took martial arts. I think if you do excercises to strengthen your lower back and legs, you'll be much better off.
posted by black8 at 3:30 PM on October 2, 2005

My karate teacher told me that standing with your feet between straight ahead and slightly turned in will allow you to stand in a neutral position, and therefore not cause as much back strain. Combine this with some knee bending and it should help.
posted by nekton at 4:22 PM on October 2, 2005

black8 is close but doesn't quite have the whole picture. I've taught hundreds of hours of back safety classes, so I'll finish it.

It's not strengthening your back muscles that will make your back feel better. You have to strengthen your abdominal muscles and stretch your hamstrings and hip flexors. The abs are really big and strong in comparison to the tiny, feather-like muscles along your spine. By using the abs to bear the stress of standing and increasing the flexibility of your hip flexors and hamstrings, you take the strain off those tiny muscles and move it to larger, more toned muscle.

Work on increasing the strength and becoming more flexible, and you should be able to stand for longer periods of time. It won't happen overnight, so be patient.
posted by lambchop1 at 10:17 PM on October 2, 2005

Yoga......I once asked a friend if he did any exercise and he said "yoga". So I replied, "But do you do any -real- exercise?" He made me promise to try yoga. I did, and it kicked my ass. Seriously, yoga would be great for strengthening the back. I now do it in the winter as conditioning for skiing.
posted by neuron at 10:43 PM on October 2, 2005

I suffered from the same pains. Once I went to a festival and on the second day I couldn't enjoy anything anymore. I was planning on going back to our tent and resigned to spending the rest of the festival lying down when I passed the red cross pavilion and decided to go in. They gave me ... an aspirin. It seemed hilariously futile, until I swallowed it and the pain miraculously disappeared for the next 6 hours. Since then I just take one aspirin before going to a show.

I realise this may be fighting the symptoms rather than the cause but fuck it, you know. No more pain! It's great!
posted by Skyanth at 2:53 AM on October 3, 2005

Yoga classes, specifically anusara yoga, would help. This explanation of mountain pose, which is just standing up straight, might be a good start, though. (But I would say start with feet hip-width apart, not touching, and facing so that the outer edges are parallel.)

For me, just learning to pull the sides of my waist back and my tailbone down when standing has alleviated a lot of the pressure on my lower back when I'm standing for long periods of time.

And seconding the comfortable shoes for when you're at the show.
posted by occhiblu at 8:37 AM on October 3, 2005

Also should add: When women just try to "stand up straighter," they often overemphasize the curve in the lower back, which can lead to back pain (at least, it can if you're me). That's why pulling the waist back and tailbone down is important.
posted by occhiblu at 8:39 AM on October 3, 2005

Skyanth, I like your advice the best of all.
posted by smackfu at 11:05 AM on October 3, 2005

Response by poster: "pulling the waist back" - I don't know what that means! I think that's my big problem - I can never figure out how to situate my hips when I try to stand up straight.

But this is still all good to hear...tonight's show went much better, and I've wanted to try yoga so maybe this can motivate me somewhat.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 9:22 PM on October 3, 2005

Re: Pulling the waist back -- Stand in the "high heel" pose, with your butt sticking way out, your lower back really curved, and your boobs sticking forward. (It'll help if you stand slightly pigeon-toed, with your feet hip-width apart.) Now, without clenching your butt, think of pulling your tailbone down toward the floor, kind of tucking your butt under. You should notice your waist moving back as the curve in your lower back flattens a bit. Encourage that by thinking of moving your belly button toward your back. (That's pulling your waist back.)

At this point, you may notice your lower ribs jutting forward farther than your belly. From your waist (and keeping that belly button moving back), tilt your upper body forward ever so slightly -- you're basically just trying to correct any tendency you may have to lean backward.

Advanced tip: Keeping your shoulder blades pulled onto your back at this point gives you all the cleavage you need, without making you contort your back. :-)

It feels awkward and forward-leaning at first, but you get used to it. I hadn't realized how much I used to jut my hips forward and lean my upper body back -- not so good for the low back.
posted by occhiblu at 12:31 PM on October 5, 2005

Also, make sure you're putting equal weight on all four corners of both feet: big toe mound, little toe mound, inner heel, outer heel. Standing barefoot (again, with toes forward and legs hip-width apart), lift up your toes and center your weight; you'll feel your legs and hips shift closer to where they naturally want to be.
posted by occhiblu at 12:38 PM on October 5, 2005

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