Workplace Tips to Avoid Sciatica Problems

Workplace Tips to Avoid Sciatica Problems

Sciatica is one of the most common types of back pain, and experts estimate that as many as 40 percent of all people experience sciatica at some point in their lives. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve — the longest nerve in your body — becomes irritated and compressed. The sciatic nerve exits your spine in your lower back before dividing into two separate branches that travel down each leg.

Because sciatica is a nerve-related pain, it can cause symptoms in your lower back near the site of the nerve irritation or compression, as well as anywhere along the path of the nerve. That means people with sciatica can experience symptoms in their buttocks, hips, and legs as well. In addition to a dull, aching pain, sciatica can cause sharp, electricity-like bursts of shooting pain, as well as numbness and pins-and-needles sensations. Some cases of sciatica will clear up on their own, but others can worsen, sometimes causing muscle weakness and loss of coordination in your legs. Very severe cases can cause bowel or bladder incontinence.

People who have sciatica often have recurrent symptoms, especially if their sciatica is caused by job-related activities, like prolonged sitting or repetitive lifting. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risk for workplace flare-ups, simply by observing a few basic guidelines.

Sit up straight

Your mom was right: Good posture is important, especially when you spend hours sitting at a desk. That doesn’t mean you have to sit perfectly straight all day long, but it does mean you need to take care not to slouch, slump, and hunch over for long hours. Sitting straight distributes your weight as well as the pressure and strain on your lower back muscles, reducing stress on your spine. One of the best ways to keep your body in ideal alignment while you’re sitting is to reposition your computer. Make sure the screen is at eye level, even if you need to put it on a platform. Adjust your chair so your keyboard is within easy reach, and line up your shoulders and your hips so your back is straight. Need some help maintaining that good posture during the day? Look into using a lumbar support cushion, which can provide support for your lower back while also keeping your body in better alignment.

Stand when you can ...

Taking regular breaks during your workday to change your position is also important for relieving pressure on your lower back. Try to stand for a few minutes every half hour or so if you can, and walk around your desk once or twice. Not only will it help relax your back muscles, but it’s also good for circulation. A better option: Consider investing in a sit-to-stand desk (or better yet, see if your employer is willing to purchase one for your space). A sit-to-stand desk keeps your computer at the proper level so you can continue to work while alternating between standing up and sitting down.

... but not too much

If you sit a lot during your workday, standing now and then is important for relieving back strain. But standing too long can put excess stress on your lower back. That means if your job involves a lot of standing, it's important to take sitting-down breaks every now and then. If that's not possible, shift your weight from foot to foot, do some side bends to keep your back muscles loose, or use a low footstool to elevate one leg and then the other for a few minutes now and then. 

Try hot and cold therapy

We use hot and cold therapy at The Vanguard Clinic to promote circulation and reduce inflammation and irritation in the lower back. You can do the same thing with portable hot and cold packs you can buy at a drugstore or online. These packs activate with a simple twist. Portable packs can be used during your commute, as well. Or you could consider using a heating pad or an ice pack for about 15 minutes at a time.

See your doctor

Although sciatica is common, that doesn't mean it can be ignored. Some mild cases may resolve on their own, but other times, your condition can worsen — especially if your sciatica is caused by a herniated disc or a degenerative condition like arthritis. The best way to find fast, lasting relief is to schedule an appointment with The Vanguard Clinic to learn the cause of your symptoms so you can find a treatment that's tailored to your needs. To find out what's causing your lower back pain — and how to relieve it — book an appointment online today.

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