Keep the Pain at Bay While Cheering Your Teams

October 27, 2023 at 7:48 a.m.

Seattle area physical therapists offer game-day tips for keeping your back, neck, posture, and posterior healthy while spending all those hours watching your favorite team…whether on hard bleachers, sideline campchairs, or in front of your own television.

Millions of Americans battle lower back pain, which is exacerbated when seated too long without getting up and moving around. Physical therapists are often front and center when it comes to working with people in pain.

“We work with patients suffering from lower back pain every day; our goal is to make sure fans don’t end up in pain from cheering their kids (or grandkids) and favorite teams from the sidelines,” said Tom DiAngelis, Senior Regional Director of RET Physical Therapy & Healthcare Specialists.

Pain can come while sitting on hard bleachers or even on your own comfy couch.

A Word About Bleachers:
Most bleachers don’t have back support, causing people to sit in awkward positions for long periods of time, which can lead to neck, lower back, and backside pain. The hard surface of a bleacher or stadium seat can compress the muscles and nerves between the seat and the bones of the pelvis, causing circulation loss, numbness, and tingling. Even high school basketball games can last up to two or more hours, spectators often find themselves seated for extended periods.

Here are some tips to get through the day:

#1 Bring Supportive Seating: Consider a bleacher seat or a cushion to distribute your weight evenly, reducing pressure on your “sit” bones.

#2 Move Around Frequently: Your best posture is your next posture. If you notice you’re becoming uncomfortable in your current position, switch it up. Shift side-to-side and stretch occasionally. Lean back and forward, or cross your legs. During time outs or commercials, stand up and move around to increase blood flow to the muscles you’re shortening while sitting. Don’t want to miss any action? March in place. Doing so will help keep the back and hips limber and soften symptoms.

#3 Post-Game Activity: By moving your body and getting exercise after the game, you’ll minimize the chance of your muscles stiffening and subsequent pain from prolonged sitting.

Even sitting on your comfy couch for long periods of time, especially when leaning forward during those tense and exciting sports moments, can stiffen the muscles and joints.

Physical therapists offer tips for avoiding pain from sitting too long: 

Gameday Rescue Routine:  
  • Seated Spinal Twist: While seated, cross your right leg over your left, place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee, and twist to the right, holding for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side to keep that spine flexible and happy. You’ll also feel this in the glutes.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch: While standing, take a large step forward with your right leg and bend your right knee to lower your body towards the ground. Touch your left knee to the ground but try to keep it as straight as possible. This provides a good stretch along the front of your left hip. Add a lower back stretch by reaching your left arm over your head and leaning to the right. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch sides.
  • Standing Hamstring Stretch: Stand up tall and hinge at your hips. While hinging forward, reach your hands toward your toes. Hold for 30 seconds and slowly come up. This will help lengthen your spine, glutes, and hamstrings after sitting for an extended period of time.

Additional facts to consider:

  • On average, we spend four hours watching live sports per week, with many spending more than five hours doing so.
  • 60 million kids are actively participating in youth sports, and 90% of parents –plus grandparents—show up weekly to cheer them on.
  • According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 82% of American’s discretionary time is spent sitting, to the tune of an average of 9.5 hours a day.

From ergonomic seating aids to mindful posture and active breaks, wishing you many hours of sports excitement while enjoying sports to the fullest.

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