This episode is entitled “Sit comfortably with lower back pain / sciatica”, and the tips for doing this are:
- Get up often from sitting with lower back pain / sciatica
- Have your hips higher than your knees
- Wobble when sitting with lower back pain / sciatica
- Sit on a labile surface
- Sniff and get straight up
Get up often from sitting with lower back pain / sciatica
This comes down to loading. The longer you sit, either the more uncomfortable it becomes or the worst you are when we get up. This is about duration, a huge factor. It’s called sustained loading. If you stay in one position for a prolonged period of time, the tissues slowly stretch, strain and eventually fatigue. If you keep going, they can get to the point where something tears. Getting up and moving often is super important to minimize the risk of that sustained loading, ultimately leading to fatigue and of course pain.
How often to get up? It depends. The broad rule is use it, but don’t abuse it. Use pain as your guide. If you can sit comfortably for 15 minutes and you’re no worse when you get up, but if you sit for 20 minutes and you’re stiff and sore when you get up, stick to 15. If you’re fit and healthy, 30 to 40 minutes is a good guide. We struggle to concentrate for much longer than that. Get up every 30 to 40 minutes and shake a leg, or go for a walk around the room.
Have your hips higher than your knees
Many health and safety people will tell you to sit at right angles. Thighs parallel to floor, shins coming straight down, and another right angle between your trunk and your thighs. The problem is that this encourages your lower back to curve, slightly in the direction opposite to its natural curve. When you’re trying to sit comfortably with lower back pain / sciatica, you want to maintain the natural arch in the small of your back. If you sit with your hips higher than your knees, it’s much easier to maintain that natural arch in the small of your back.
Once the small of your back is there, everything else will stack on top. Your thoracic spine, your cervical spine, your shoulder girdle, everything will sit much more easily and readily if you have your lower back in that natural lumbar lordosis. Whereas when you sit at right angles and with your bottom lower than your knees, your lower back will reign in the opposite direction. Instead of curving in, it starts to curve out and that leads to constant stretch and strain on those tissues at the back of your back. Be weary of car seats. Put something under your bottom to lift it up higher.
Wobble to sit comfortably with lower back pain / sciatica
If you are sitting, our back will thank you for frequent movement. Most lower backs are quite comfortable walking. Equally, they dislike staying in one position for prolonged periods of time, so don’t sit still. Just one ball while you sit a little tune in there. Wobbling is just a nice, easy flowing motion from side to side, just keeping a constant low-grade motion up. You can type and wobble at the same time, you can talk and wobble.
Sit on a labile surface
Most office chairs will be fairly firm. They have a layer of cushioning, but it’s a firm surface. You can wobble, but it’s not as easy as if you have a wobble cushion. It’s a very simple inflatable rubber cushion. It comes with a little pump so you can pump it up to the degree of firmness of your choice and wobble on it. If you’re committed to the office chair, you can buy one of those 20 pounds dirt cheap, and it will make an enormous difference to your comfort while you sit. Another labile surface is the office ball chair. You can also pump this one up to the degree of firmness of your preference and sit and wobble on it.
Sniff and get straight up
You may experience pain as you get up from a chair because you’ve sat for too long. We’re back to duration. There’s a method for getting up from the chair. The best way to do it is to shuffle your bottom to the front edge of the chair and then to stand straight up. Don’t lean forward to get out of the chair. That will enable you to get up much more comfortably from a chair than you will have done in the past. If you need to, you can put your hands on your thighs and push down on your thighs.
The most important thing is to stand straight up. Before you attempt to do this, take a sharp sniff it and hold it. Put your hands on your belly and take a sharp sniff in. The abdominal muscles contract. It may be easier or harder, depending on what layers of fat you have between your hands and those abdominal muscles. But there will be some activity in those muscles.
If you’d like a free online assessment of lower back pain / sciatica, click the link.