How to Avoid Bleacher Back

There is nothing like being able to watch your favorite local sports team play.

Unfortunately, this also means sitting for prolonged periods of time on those hard, unsupportive bleachers.  This leads to back achiness and stiffness and makes it difficult to walk down the bleachers.  I want to give you 3 tips on how you can help reduce your back pain or better yet avoid it altogether.

Related: To be a Dynamic Football Player, Stretch Like One
  • Find a comfortable sitting posture. We have been told to sit up straight and this is easier said than done.  Chances are after you read this you are noticing that you are slouched forward a bit or could straighten up a little more.  A great way to find the sitting position that you need to be in is to slouch down and exaggerate that posture.  Now sit up as straight as you can and exaggerate that posture.  Now you have found the maximum end range of motion your body can move into, but this is hard to maintain.  The final step is to come out of this extended position just a bit and hold right there.  This is the best position for you to find yourself in.


Related: Keep Your Athlete Injury Free
  • Change positions frequently to the standing position. Even if you have great posture, which is difficult to maintain during an entire game, prolonged sitting increases the stress and load to our lower back.  This can make it both painful and difficult to stand afterward.  The easiest way to do this is to make a game out of it.  For football games, you could stand every change of possession.  Or for games with frequent possession changes (field hockey/soccer) you could stand every 8-10 minutes of game time.  These brief standing breaks, 30-60 seconds, give your muscles and structures a chance to reset.


  • Another exercise I like to perform is standing back extensions. This helps to move us in the opposite direction compared to the seating position that we find ourselves in frequently.  By performing 5-10 of these extensions between periods/quarters it will allow our bodies move into this position more freely when the game is over.


Related: Core Strengthening Exercises for Back Pain Relief

Here’s what to watch for:

If you have pain down into your legs it is best to check with your physical therapist before starting any exercise program.  Also, if there is any increase in your pain with doing any of these exercises, stop and consult your physical therapist.

The bottom line is that you should feel good when you are out watching the games.  Make sure that you are proactive and follow these tips or consult your physical therapist to make this sports season an enjoyable one.

By Ryan Martin, PT

Back in Motion® Physical Therapy – Gorham, Maine

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