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Can Sitting Make a Herniated Disc Worse?


Along with excessive reaching, stretching, and bending, sitting can aggravate the symptoms of a herniated disc (sometimes referred to as a “ruptured” or “bulging” disc) for some people. This does not mean you cannot actually sit comfortably if you have disc-related problems. Sitting tends to be more of an issue if you are not mindful of how you are sitting or if you sit for extended periods of time. This article explains how you can have a more pleasant and less painful sitting experience with a herniated disc.

Improve Your Sitting Posture

Poor sitting posture can take a toll on a spinal disc that is already compromised by herniation. One way this often happens is by not sitting up straight. In this instance, you are placing added pressure on your spine by throwing off its natural alignment, which then affects the problem disc. Whether you are sitting casually at home or while working, reduce the risk of experiencing painful flare-ups by:

• Not slouching
• Not excessively leaning forward or toward one side or the other
• Keeping your back flat against your chair
• Sitting in a way that keeps your knees at hip level or just slightly above your hips

Your feet should also be able to comfortably touch the floor as you sit to further maintain a beneficial sitting posture. If you are sitting in a recliner, adjust it so you are easing stress on the affected disc as much as possible.

Avoid Sitting for Long Periods of Time

Regardless of your posture, sitting for long periods of time can weaken muscles that support your spine. As these soft tissues weaken or become irritated enough to swell, nerves that are already compressed to some extent by a herniated disc can be affected. A good rule of thumb to follow is to make an effort to get up and move every 20-30 minutes. For times when you are not able to get up as often, avoid overstressing the affected area by:

• Shifting your position as you sit
• Using a lumbar support brace or cushion
• Taking mini-breaks to gently stretch your spine—which can also be done from a seated position

Take Other Steps to Manage Your Herniated Disc Issues

Sitting can be less of an issue if you work with your doctor, a spine specialist, or a physical therapist to manage your symptoms. You may also have fewer flare-ups when sitting or making other daily movements if you take some additional steps. Recommendations for herniated disc sufferers include:

• Getting regular exercise
• Eating berries, peppers, and other foods that naturally ease inflammation
• Getting sufficient sleep to facilitate your body's natural healing processes
• Strengthening muscle groups that support your spine

It is often possible to manage herniated disc pain with nonsurgical treatments and remedies in a way that makes it easier to sit safely and comfortably. However, if you are finding it difficult to manage your symptoms, talk to your doctor about surgical options that may be beneficial for you.

If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, herniated disc surgery called a discectomy may be discussed and potentially recommended. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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