Preventing Spine Pain When Grocery Shopping

Category: Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: June 5, 2022

Lady pushing a shopping cart in the supermarket.

We’ve all been to the grocery store at some point to get groceries for the week, and many people navigate this experience without any discomfort. However, others may notice that after a while, they are experiencing leg weakness or numbness, or some pain in their lower back, hips and legs. They may also find that leaning forward a bit onto the grocery cart helps alleviate symptoms, so they spend the rest of their shopping trip slightly hunched over their shopping cart.

This may sound like a very specific instance, but it’s actually way more common than you imagine, hence why it’s earned the moniker “shopping cart spine.” In today’s blog, we take a closer look at what’s going on if you’re experiencing these symptoms and explain how to treat the underlying issue you’re dealing with.

Shopping Cart Spine

It’s important to remember that every patient is different and even though you may be experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, you’d benefit from an individual consultation with a specialist to determine exactly what’s going on in your spine. But for the basis of this blog, we’re going to talk about a specific condition that can cause problems when you’re up and walking that becomes less uncomfortable when you’re hunching forward a bit, and that’s lumbar spinal stenosis.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a back issue that is caused by the compression of nerves in your lower spine. Oftentimes stenosis is brought on by degenerative changes caused by issues like arthritis, disc degeneration and spinal ligament thickening. When this collection of nerves in the lower spine is compressed, the collection of symptoms is referred to as neurogenic claudication. Symptoms of neurogenic claudication that tend to develop in the lower back, hips and buttocks include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Shooting discomfort
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cramping

The reason this issue can be more noticeable when you’re out grocery shopping is because of the positioning of your spinal canal when you’re performing the activity. When you’re shopping, you’re walking upright, which narrows the canal through which spinal nerves pass. The opening actually widens a little when you lean forward, so if you hunch over your grocery cart a bit, symptoms may fade or become nonexistent. Many people will finish their shopping in this position because it helps them manage their symptoms.

However, as you might imagine, hunching forward when you’re walking is hardly a long-term solution to lumbar spinal stenosis. Instead, if stenosis is diagnosed by a spine specialist, they’ll walk you through some conservative options to help make movement more normalized. This will likely include a combination of physical therapy, medications, epidural steroid injections, postural improvements and weight loss.

Most patients experience significant or complete symptom relief with the help of conservative methods, but if you’re still experiencing a lot of discomfort after weeks of treatment, a more hands-on method may be required. A lumbar fusion procedure or similar decompression operation may be able to quell symptoms and get you back to moving without pain.

So if you’re finding it uncomfortable to walk upright for long distances without wanting to take a break or hunch over, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at The Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today for help overcoming your back condition.

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