UNC Health Care

I Can’t STAND to Stand!

Post by Brian Trabulsi MPT, ATC. Brian is a physical therapist at Rex Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation in Raleigh.

I frequently come across patients with low back pain whose biggest challenge is standing in place. They can walk for an hour but really struggle to stand for just a couple of minutes. This makes standing in line to check out of a store or washing dishes particularly challenging. So, one of the best tips I’ve learned over the years to help patients is to harness their inner ballerina.

Third position in ballet stand with back heel of one foot against the instep of the other
Third position in ballet stand with back heel of one foot against the instep of your other foot

By placing the back heel of one foot against the instep of your other foot (Third position in ballet) it forces your gluteus muscles to contract. The contraction helps take some of the compression off the lumbar facet joints and lessen the strain of the low back muscles. Standing for an extended amount of time at a cocktail party, you can subtly switch back and forth between right and left.

If you think it sounds crazy, try it. Stand with your feet shoulder width as you normally would. Now move the back heel of one foot into the instep of the other making sure they touch. I promise you’ll notice a little ‘lift’ in the low back as the gluteus muscles activate.

So, give it a try the next time you’re stuck in line at Harris Teeter while the shopper in front of you goes through an endless collection of coupons. Just don’t curtsy after you checkout.