As Glastonbury approaches, here’s how to protect your lower back from festival ache

25th Jun 19 | Lifestyle

There’s nothing you can do about not being able to shower, but you can help keep those aches and pains at bay.

Glastonbury Festival 2015 – Day 2

Along with incredible live music, warm beer and dancing until the small hours of the morning, festivals like Glastonbury, which kicks off on Wednesday, bring something a little less than ideal for many of us: A bout of lower back pain.

There’s nothing more annoying than having the time of your life seriously impeded by an aching back. And yet it’s a common problem, as many of us lead pretty sedentary lives and spend most of the day hunched over a desk – so going from this to walking, standing and dancing for multiple days in a row can be a bit of a shock to the system.

“While standing is a natural human posture, standing up all day for several days in a row can lead to muscle fatigue, back pain, stiffness, swollen legs and feet,” says Medicspot GP Dr Farah Gilani. “This is because remaining in the same position for a prolonged period puts excessive strain on a small group of muscles. It can create pressure on the spine and cause the muscles in the lower back to spasm and contract.”

Basically, keeping your body in one position for hours on end is often bound to bring some discomfort, but there may be additional reasons why some of us feel those aches more acutely than others. “Your posture may contribute further to back pain,” Gilani explains. Again, often because of that pesky sedentary lifestyle, not all of us have the best posture.

Glastonbury Festival Goers 2017 Departures
(Ben Birchall/PA)

All of this (and possibly a hangover/lack of sleep thrown into the mix as well!) means many of us feel physically rough by the final day of the festival – and things definitely aren’t helped by camping on the hard ground, instead of resting in a nice comfy bed. But you still want to be able to enjoy the last day as much as the first – so what can you do to minimise festival-induced back ache?

Gilani says that “maintaining good posture is important” if you don’t want your lower back to suffer. Her advice for nailing this is making sure your body is well aligned.

“Your shoulders should be parallel to your hips, feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent slightly,” she says. “Your arms should fall naturally at your sides and your weight should rest primarily on the balls of your feet. Making sure your body is aligned in this way will ensure you are standing up straight, with your head lifted.”

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Admittedly, that’s easy to forget as the day goes on.

“To avoid slouching, pull your shoulders back and relax them and pull in your abdomen,” Gilani says.”Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and your head is not tilted. If you find that your bottom tends to stick out, you may have an excessive curve in your back, which can get uncomfortable when standing for long periods of time. To help with this, tilt your pelvis into a neutral position and tighten your abdominals. Make sure to stretch your muscles regularly and sit down when you can.”

And if you find yourself waiting in line (which, let’s be honest, is any time you need to go to the toilet) Gilani says: “It’s a good idea to adjust your weight from the balls of your feet to your toes and from one foot to another. However, avoid leaning on one leg for a long period of time as it can put too much pressure on one area of your lower back and hip. This can lead to imbalances in the pelvic region and hips.”

Glastonbury Festival 2017 – Day 3
Give your back a rest sometimes (Ben Birchall/PA)

Other than considering your posture, what else can you do to prevent lower back pain while checking out the bands? Sure, you want your shoes to look cute and maybe even be waterproof, but Gilani says: “Festival-goers should make sure the shoes they wear are comfortable, supportive and well-fitting. This will minimise foot pain and help to evenly distribute body weight, improving posture and alignment.”

This will also help with the familiar feeling of throbbing feet. Gilani says: “Standing up all day also causes blood to accumulate in the legs, and can cause your legs and feet to become swollen and sore.”

Another thing to think about is how you fuel your body over the festival. Even though you might be used to surviving on cider and cheese toasties, being a little bit more conscious of what you eat will go a long way. And don’t forget to look after your hydration levels by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

“To help with muscle aches in the back and legs, you should ensure you remain well hydrated throughout the festival and try to eat mineral rich foods,” Gilani advises. “For example, eating foods high in magnesium such as whole wheat, spinach, quinoa, black beans, edamame, avocado, nuts and bananas may help to ease cramps.”

Glastonbury Festival 2017 – Day 2
(Yui Mok/PA)

Luckily, food trucks at festivals have come a long way and finding something healthy to eat isn’t as hard as it might have been 20 years ago. But failing that, just remember to pack lots of bananas and keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times. Trust us – drinking lots of H2O will not only ease back pain, but also that pounding headache which may come out of nowhere…

Finally, Gilani wants you to keep moving throughout the festival. “Make sure to move about, change positions and take sitting breaks as much as possible, not just when you feel an ache in your back or legs. Stretching regularly also helps to ease pressure and discomfort,” she says.

You might feel a little foolish doing some stretches in the middle of West Holts, but it’s a festival remember – people will be doing a lot weirder stuff than that. If anything, you’ll feel right at home.

© Press Association 2019