Being in one position all day long builds tension in your muscles and joints. Here’s how to get some relief.
If your day-to-day routine requires you to be on your feet for prolonged periods of time (say, if you work in a retail or a caregiving profession), you know it can be taxing. Hello, achy knees, and foot, heel, and back pain.
“Plantar fasciits (heel pain that develops as a result of inflammation in the tissue connecting the heel bone and toes) is a common complaint affecting people’s feet, alongside overall muscle,” explains Melissa Prestipino, DPT, the clinical director of Therapeutics Unlimited, a physical therapy center in Sparta, New Jersey.
Poor posture (rounding your shoulders, tilting your head forward, protracting your shoulder blades, or tilting your pelvis forward, for example) can put extra pressure on the back muscles and cause chronic low back pain and musculoskeletal issues, Prestipino adds.
Also, there’s the problem of just not moving enough, says Jeff Brannigan, the program director at Stretch*d, a stretch therapy studio in New York City. When it comes to sedentary behavior, sitting tends to get more attention than standing. But research suggests that a lot of standing (in particular static standing, meaning you’re on your feet but otherwise not moving a whole lot) can bring certain health problems, too.
“Sedentary lifestyles cause the muscles to enter into a constant state of tension, which will negatively affect their ability to function properly — causing pain, compensation, and imbalances,” he says.
A review published in July 2015 in the journal Rehabilitation Nursing concluded that health problems ranging from lower back and leg pain to fatigue and discomfort to cardiovascular problems have all been linked to prolonged standing. A study published in 2017 in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that in a cohort of more than 7,000 Canadian employees, those who worked in jobs requiring them to stand most of the time had double the risk of heart disease compared with people who sat at work most of the time.
“When you're sedentary, your body becomes stale and brittle. Think of it the same way that a car that has been neglected in a garage would likely not run as efficiently as a car that gets regular maintenance,” Brannigan says.
The good news is that movement, and that includes dynamic and static stretching, can help.
Stretches to Alleviate Aches Caused by Standing
Below are three specific stretches Prestipino recommends to help alleviate tension caused by lots of standing. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side a few times a day to reap the full benefits, she says.