We are a sedentary people. We go from the car seat, to hours in an office chair, and then straight to the couch. A lot of people say that Sitting is the New Smoking, and its true! Researchers have found evidence that prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing several serious illnesses, such as various types of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Prolonged Sitting Also Contributes to Low Back and Leg Pain, Also Known as Sciatica.
Sciatica pain is typically a sharp, shooting pain that travels down the back of the leg to the knee or down into the calf or foot. Many people with chronic or long-term sciatica feel a dull ache into the leg. Symptoms are typically on one side of the body, but occasionally are felt bilaterally. Most people with sciatica also have low back pain, but not always. It can be quite debilitating. In addition to sitting, common causes of sciatica include: Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae), piriformis syndrome (butt muscle tightness) and Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back) .
Poor Ergonomics and Not Enough Movement is a Common Thread.
I find that many of my patients with sciatica sit too much, like office workers who work for prolonged periods, and bus drivers. The other half stand too much, like teachers, food servers, and hairdressers. If you do the same thing over and over all day, you are at risk for repetitive or cumulative trauma type injuries. These can include tight, inflamed and painful muscles, joint or nerve irritation.
Tips that Help with Sciatic and Low Back Pain
- 30/2 Rule. An easy to remember rule: for every 30 minutes of stationary posture, get up and move for two minutes. Move often and change positions frequently. Your muscles need oxygen. So moving around prevents hypoxia, which leads to tissue injury.
- Drink Water. Lots of it. Like 8 glasses a day. You’ll have to pee often, which is a good motivator to get off your duff and walk to the bathroom. Plus water is good for you.
- Get Body Work. Get adjusted. Get a massage. Try acupuncture. Cumulative microtrauma causes your body to produce dense, tough scar tissue in the affected area. This scar tissue binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely. As scar tissue builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension on tendons causes tendonitis, and nerves can become trapped, resulting in symptoms such as burning, tingling, numbness and aching. Get a team of like-minded healthcare providers on your (back) side.
- Re-hab Your Body. Stabilizing and strengthening the body starts from the ground up. Treating sciatica often requires a lifestyle change on your end. You can’t just rely on passive care from your chiropractor or massage therapist. You’ve got to do your own active care and perform the stretches and make the lifestyle changes needed! Ask your chiropractor for exercises. Talk to your care provider about a Physical Therapy referral. Work with quality, experienced personal trainers.
- Improve Your Ergonomics. Try a standing desk. Many employers will gladly pay for a new desk to prevent workplace injuries. Your chiropractor will be able to write a letter requesting a better desk for your spinal health.
You’ve Got to Do Your Own Active Care
In our office we use chiropractic adjustments, soft-tissue manipulation, stretching, exercises and lifestyle recommendations to encourage our patients to heal. Treating sciatica often requires a change on your end. You can’t just rely on passive care from your chiropractor or massage therapist.You’ve got to do your own active care and perform the stretches and make the lifestyle changes needed! I find that my patients get the best results when there is group effort between the patient and their health-care team. Talk to your medical doctor about taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medications. As well as other conservative treatments such as ice, heat, acupuncture,
Please give us a call if you want to know specific exercises for you. We are always here to help.
Watch this short video to learn more about why sitting is so bad for you.