How to get up from sitting with lower back pain / sciatica

How long you sit may matter more to your lower back

This episode is entitled “How to get up from sitting with lower back pain / sciatica”.  In this episode you will learn

  • How long you sit may matter more to your lower back
  • What you sit on matters as much as how you get up.
  • What you should sit on.
  • Whether you should sit at all.
  • How to get up and sit down.
  • The power of the brace and how often to get up.

Okay, here we go. How long you sit may matter more to your lower back. If you have not listened to the six foundation episodes of this podcast, please go back and start at number one; there is a huge amount of content wrapped up in about 60 minutes worth of listening.

Use it but don’t abuse it

And one of the principles I cover there is the most important rule, the golden rule. Which is “use it, but don’t abuse it”. Sometimes I say “use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it”. The principle here is that if you do anything that aggravates your pain, you will not get better. So how long you sit may matter a lot. If you sit for 10 minutes and when you get up, your back is more sore than if you had sat for one minute, then clearly how long you’re sitting for matters. And it may matter more than how you get up or down from a chair. So how long you sit can be extremely important. People often say to me, “Oh, it’s really painful” when they get up from sitting.

And my follow-up question is always, “How long had you been sitting for?” If you had been sitting for one minute and it’s very painful, it probably is simply the act of getting up. That’s a problem. But if you sit for one minute and it’s not too bad when you get up, but if you sit for 30 minutes and it is bad, then it’s the sitting that’s the problem. And we’ll come on to that in a moment. So how long you sit may matter a huge amount to your lower back and say to, so what you sit on matters.

What you sit on matters as much as how you get up

What you sit on has a huge impact on how you’re sitting. If we’re talking about sitting in an office on an office chair, that’s very different to sitting on a kneeling chair, which is very different to sitting on a sofa, which is different to sitting, propped up in bed. So what you sit on matters a great deal, because of the impact it has on your biomechanics. So I would recommend that for your standard sitting i.e. the position that you spend most of your seated in, that you try to keep your hips higher than your knees. This is a big problem. If you’re driving particularly a car, not so much a van, but certainly in cars, typically your knees end up higher than your bottom, which is the reverse to what I am recommending. So whatever you sit on, try and keep your hips higher than your knees.

If you are using the back support, try to make sure that that back support is sitting in the small of your back and not halfway up your back. Try to make sure that you are not slumped, with your lower back rounded. So what you sit on matters a huge amount. Well, we’ve just covered that. Bu the key thing is, try and keep your hips higher on your knees. Typically a chair that goes up and down facilitates that. So you can sit at any height. Even if you’re really tall, you ought to be able to get a seat that goes up to a height where your hips are higher than your knees. Don’t sit on sofas. Sofas are not good for sitting on.  They’re all well and good for lying down on and relaxing and watching the TV.

What you should sit on, or whether you should sit at all

But frankly, if you want to relax, lie down, don’t sit because sitting is fundamentally bad for most back. 72% of the latest count of our low back pain / sciatica sufferers say they are worse for sitting. So that answers the question of whether you should sit at all. Remember the use it, but don’t abuse it principle. It may be that sitting is the worst possible thing for your back pain / sciatica. And if your experience is that every time you sit, you are worse when you get up, then you shouldn’t be sitting. Sitting is aggravating it. How do you get better? The first step is always stop doing things that make you feel worse.

So should you be sitting at all?  Possibly not.

How to get up and sit down with lower back pain / sciatica, the power of the brace.

Sit down

Start in a standing position. Lightly brace your belly muscles. Imagine you are just tightening them up, as if a small child is going to punch you in the stomach and you have to tighten up. Firm those abdominal muscles up, nothing else moves apart from them before you start to sit down. Sit on the chair immediately behind you. Try to maintain your erect spine. Keep that arch in the small of your back and sit straight down on the front edge of the seat. Make sure your seat doesn’t tip forwards when you do this. It needs to be a stable seat. Sit straight down, don’t try to sit to the back of the chair as you sit down. If you need to put your hands on the arms of the chair, then do so to guide you down.

You’re sitting at the front edge of the chair. Using your heels on the ground, push your bottom back into the chair so that you’re sliding your bottom right to the back of the chair where you can get support into the small of your back.

Get up

Reverse the process. Don’t try to get up from the back of the chair. Slide your bottom and brace lightly. Then slide to the front of the chair. Keeping that brace in those muscles and your belly stand straight up. Don’t lean forward and allow your head to project forwards as you get up. Stand straight up. Prepare by pulling your heels back so that they’re almost directly under your bottom. So that tip tucked under the front edge of the chair. Bring those heels back and stand straight up. Then you can relax the breeze. The key points are: stand with your legs, just touching that front edge of the chair, lightly braced tighten up your abdominal muscles, sit straight down onto the front edge of the seat and shuffle your bottom to the back.

How often to get up?

I would reverse that question and say, how often should you sit? You should only sit if you need a rest, and for as long as that rest doesn’t make your pain worse. Back to the use it, but don’t abuse it principle. It’s important to stay active, to move around a lot within the limits of your pain. But of course, all of us need a rest at some point, ideally that’s lying down.  But if you choose to sit, then sit for as long as you need to without the pain being worse when you get back up. I would recommend to everyone and anyone not to sit for more than half an hour at a time without getting up and having a little shuffle around.

And of course, if you are sitting, you don’t have to sit still. You can wobble from cheek to cheek as you’re sitting. That is a summary of how to get up from a chair with back pain / sciatica. Now, if you want specific advice on which exercises are best for you use our free assessment for low back pain and sciatica. And as I said earlier, please listen to the first six episodes of our podcast on lower back pain and sciatica . They’ll give you enormous value if you haven’t listened to them yet.

Click here if you would like a virtual consultation on how to sit without low back pain.

Free assessment