The sit-to-stand (STS) is a test used to measure lower-limb strength in older people or those with significant weakness (1).
It is considered an easy, quick and fairly valid measure, which involves measuring the time taken to stand from a seated position a certain number of times, or recording the number of repetitions you can do in a given period (2).
The findings of recent studies suggest performance in this test is influenced not just by factors associated with strength, but also balance and mobility, and a vast array of psychological factors (1).
But what about when sit-to-stand hurts?
Low back pain can reduce spine, hip and pelvic floor motion due to conscious or unconscious guarding associated with pain (3).
Multiple studies have shown there are changes in how energy is transferred between bone and soft tissue in the spine, pelvis, and legs associated with pain (4). And that inefficient energy flow or transfer then places more demand from everything. A cycle of back pain-altered biomechanics can start, creating more back pain. With all the changes in energy transfer and muscle power, everyday activities such as standing up from a sitting position can become difficult.
Muscle coordination, balance and mobility are affected, and psychological factors start to play in and effect our beliefs and so the cycle continues (1).
Stopping the cycle can be easy.
You just bypass your traditional route to standing and try something different altogether.
Try these simple tips. You may not need all of them:
RELAX before you start
WIDER STANCE - think SUMO wrestler
SLOW DOWN (TIMING) - move more slowly
HANDS ON KNEES
BREATHE OUT - this is a big one. The less compression in the container of the torso the better.
Many people are surprised they can suddenly sit-to-stand with no pain after weeks or months experiencing twinges and outright muscle spasms when trying to stand after sitting.
After a few days of pain free sit-to-stand, you can try heading back to your old ways as there is rarely a “right” way to do something. You can get up and down any way you choose, each one of them equally valid.
As a lot of research shows, the way you do something does start to matter. If you always get up and down via your arm on the desk, leaning forward to create momentum, it means the strengths necessary to do it another way are waning.
Can this help if I have pain elsewhere?
This can also break the cycle if you experience pain in hips, knees and feet.
1. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2002 Aug;57(8):M539-43. Sit-to-stand performance depends on sensation, speed, balance, and psychological status in addition to strength in older people. Lord SR1, Murray SM, Chapman K, Munro B, Tiedemann A.
2. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Oct 2;112:38-43. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.08.006. Epub 2018 Sep 1. The sit-to-stand muscle power test: An easy, inexpensive and portable procedure to assess muscle power in older people. Alcazar J1, Losa-Reyna J2, Rodriguez-Lopez C1, Alfaro-Acha A3, Rodriguez-Mañas L4, Ara I1, García-García FJ5, Alegre LM6.
3. Explain Pain Supercharged G. Lorimer Moseley and David S.
Butler. Adelaide City West: NOI Group Publishers, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-6480227-0-1
4. Gary L. Shum, PhD, et al. Energy Transfer Across the Lumbosacral and Lower-Extremity Joints in Patients with Low Back Pain During Sit-to-Stand. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. January 2009. Vol. 90. No. 1. Pp. 127-135.