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Does Prolonged Sitting Worsen Sciatica?


7.17 - Can Sitting Too Long Make Sciatica Worse

Sciatica, often characterized by excruciating pain radiating down the leg, is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While various factors can contribute to sciatica, one aspect that is often overlooked is the impact of a sedentary lifestyle. Many people spend extended hours sitting, so it is crucial to understand the relationship between prolonged sitting and the exacerbation of sciatica symptoms. This article explains how sitting for long periods can aggravate sciatica and what you can do to prevent and relieve the pain caused by sitting too long.

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a term that describes pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the legs. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected leg.

Sciatica is usually caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve or its roots in the spine. This can happen due to various reasons, such as:

  • Herniated or bulging discs in the lower spine
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra over another)
  • Piriformis syndrome (tightness or spasm of the piriformis muscle in the buttocks)
  • Pregnancy
  • Injury or trauma to the lower back or pelvis
  • Tumors or infections in the spine

How Does Sitting Affect Sciatica?

Sitting for long periods can worsen sciatica in several ways. First, sitting can increase the pressure on the discs and nerves in the lower spine, especially if you have poor posture or an unsupportive chair. This can cause more inflammation and irritation of the sciatic nerve and its roots.

Second, sitting can reduce blood flow and oxygen to the tissues around the sciatic nerve, which can impair healing and increase pain, especially in the last stages of sciatica. Sitting can also cause muscle stiffness and tightness in the lower back, buttocks, hips, and hamstrings, which can further compress or irritate the sciatic nerve.

Third, sitting can limit range of motion and flexibility in the lower back and legs, which can affect the ability to perform daily activities and exercises that can relieve sciatica. Sitting can also weaken the core and gluteal muscles, which are important for supporting the spine and preventing injury.

How Can You Prevent and Relieve Sciatica while Sitting?

If you have sciatica, you may not be able to avoid sitting completely, especially if your work or lifestyle requires it. However, there are some steps you can take to prevent and relieve sciatica while sitting. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a comfortable and ergonomic chair that supports your lower back and allows you to maintain a neutral spine position. You can also use a lumbar pillow or a rolled-up towel to support your lower back curve.
  • Adjust your seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are slightly lower than your hips. You can also use a footrest if needed.
  • Avoid crossing your legs or ankles, as this can twist your spine and increase pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Change your position frequently and avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time. Get up and walk around every hour or so to stretch your muscles and increase blood circulation.
  • Do some gentle exercises and stretches while sitting to relieve tension and stiffness in your lower back, buttocks, hips, and legs. 
  • Apply heat or ice to your lower back or buttocks to reduce inflammation and pain. You can use a heating pad, a hot water bottle, an ice pack, or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. Apply heat or ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time several times a day.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen to ease discomfort. However, do not take these medications for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor.
  • Consult your doctor if your sciatica does not improve with home remedies or if you experience severe pain, numbness, weakness, loss of bladder or bowel control, fever, or weight loss. These could be signs of a more serious condition that requires medical attention.

Sitting for prolonged periods can undoubtedly worsen the symptoms of sciatica. By understanding the impact of a sedentary lifestyle and implementing the strategies mentioned above, individuals suffering from sciatica can mitigate the discomfort and improve their overall wellbeing. 

A patient who has had a discectomy or less invasive microdiscectomy for a herniated disc may experience sciatica if the disc reherniates, which often occurs if there is a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. Fortunately, there is a new treatment available. Barricaid is a device shown to reduce the risk of reherniation by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy, 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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