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Best Sitting Position for Sciatica

   This post has been quality checked in line with our Editorial and Research Policy.

Best Sitting Position for Sciatica

The question of how to sit when you have sciatica comes up nearly every day in my practice. This is an important one, so I want to offer you the same advice I give my patients, hoping that it could potentially help you avoid exacerbation.

As a general rule, in order to prevent sciatica, you should sit with both feet flat on the ground, hips higher than knees, and lean back in an upright position. In this way, you can relieve pressure from your lower spine, which can cause pain there.

Although a great deal of information on the internet is reliable, it does not cover all essentials. I have spent thirty years treating and ergonomically advising patients with sciatica, and I want to pass on what you should do to prevent or reduce this pain. When my patients have difficulty sitting, the advice I impart most of the time works.  

How to Stop Sciatica Pain When Sitting

Sciatica pain when sitting can be unbearable. If you are suffering from this condition, you should consider the following suggestions for your sitting environment:

sciatic nerve diagram

  1. For starters, the easiest way to help alleviate this is to stand up and move about every twenty minutes or so.  
  2. Using a lumbar support can be incredibly beneficial to reducing sciatica pain and, in a pinch, you can use a rolled-up towel placed at your lower back for support.  
  3. Try to elevate your seat to the highest level possible while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Use a footrest if necessary.
  4. The tip that I most often get the most positive feedback on is to keep your hips above your knees. That way, they naturally tilt forward, and your pelvic and spinal muscles are relaxed.
  5. Another tip that I get great feedback on is to increase the width of your chair. Most decent ergonomic chairs have a seat depth adjustment. A key thing to remember here is to make sure that your knees aren’t touching the edge of your seat any closer than three fingers.
  6. You can also get relief from sciatica pain by stretching the muscles in your legs while sitting. So, make sure your legs are moving, extending and contracting even while you are sitting. It is a good idea to schedule stretching breaks throughout the day.
  7. Make sure you have plenty of legroom under your desk. Take out any clutter from under the desk and store your files, cords, printers, and other items elsewhere.

It is important to remember that nobody can say for sure whether sitting is better as each sciatica sufferer is different, so you must find out what works for you.  

Typically, it is usually a combination of sitting and standing that helps to alleviate sciatica pains. It is often recommended to switch between the two positions as often as required but beware of sitting in a low position as standing from a low seated position can cause additional pain.

Does Sitting Make Sciatica Worse?

sitting makes sciatica worse

No, if done correctly. If you incorporate standing and moving with your sitting, you can reduce your sciatica pain drastically — that is, if you choose the right seat. I always recommend moving from sitting to standing positions frequently to avoid the effects of prolonged periods of sitting or standing. It would be best if you remained your legs moving when sitting or standing for extended periods to keep your muscles warm and improve circulation.

Is It Better to Walk or Sit With Sciatica?

man walking with sciatica

Each sciatica patient is different, so no one can say whether or not sitting is better. So during your treatment process, you have to figure out what works best for you. It is usually a combination of sitting and standing that alleviates sciatica pains. Many chiropractors advise switching between the two positions as often as needed, but be careful sitting in a low position as standing from a low seated position can be painful.

Sciatica Exercises

Here is a video I made with some great exercises for sciatica.

What is the Best Chair for Sciatica

Investing in an ergonomic office chair with the following minimum requirements may help prevent the pain associated with sciatica:

  1. Seat height adjustment. If your chair can’t go low enough or high enough, you can fix this by replacing the gas shock to be right for you.
  2. Capability for a forward tilt. Again, if your chair doesn’t have this function, you can quickly get a seat wedge. Just make sure you put a thicker wedge on the back of the seat and keep your hips above your knees.
  3. You want your seat to be able to support your body. The general rule here is that the more surface area you sit on, the fewer pressure points. The distance from the edge of your seat to your knees should be at least two to three fingers.
  4. Keep moving! Standing up and sitting at least every fifteen or twenty minutes again keeps complacent patterns at bay.

How To Sit on Couch With Sciatica

With sciatica, there is no honest good advice about how to sit on a couch. The best option would be to avoid it altogether! However, if you sit on your couch, remember to think of the sofa as like alcohol, and you should only use it only in moderation.

How to Get Your Sciatic Nerve To Stop Hurting

Below are some quick things you can do right now to help relieve sciatica:

  1. The alternating application of heat and ice to the sciatic nerve can provide immediate relief. While heat may help reduce pain while relieving inflammation, ice may reduce swelling. Heat and ice create a physiological pump to reduce inflammation. Heat and ice may also help ease painful muscle spasms that accompany sciatica.
  2. A powerful natural anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin or turmeric creates an improved immune system and overall health.
  3. A chiropractor can help you when you have a mechanical problem that may be causing your sciatica. One of my favourite treatments is non-surgical spinal decompression.
  4. With a deep tissue massage, the spine’s range of motion will be restored, improving its flexibility. Message can also help release knots, trigger points, and tension in the muscles.

Sleeping With Sciatica

Final thoughts…

This advice that I gave to you today is based on experience, as I’ve worked with so many people, all of whom spend a lot of time sitting to avoid low back pain issues caused by sitting. If you implement these easy changes to your sitting environment, you’ll enjoy long-term benefits. 

Several other factors may also play a part in sciatica problems. It is a good idea to get a proper diagnosis and imaging (like an MRI). One of the primary reasons for this is that we tend to fit into our chairs rather than making them provide us while working at a desk. All of these factors can endanger your physical health. They include leaning forward, reaching for the mouse or keyboard, crossing your legs, the incorrect seat pan, sitting on a stiff seat that is too low, and not having forward tilt control. 

Therefore, it is vital to find the best seat for you. What you should remember is that unconscious and complacent movements will end up making you break down. If you stay active and conscious throughout your day, your low back pain may disappear. 

Sources

  1. Roffey, D.M., Wai, E.K., Bishop, P., Kwon, B.K. and Dagenais, S., 2010. Causal assessment of occupational sitting and low back pain: results of a systematic review. The Spine Journal, 10(3), pp.252-261.
  2. Hartvigsen, Jan, Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde, Svend Lings, and Elisabeth H. Corder. “Is sitting-while-at-work associated with low back pain? A systematic, critical literature review.” Scandinavian journal of public health 28, no. 3 (2000): 230-239.
  3. Williams, M.M., Hawley, J.A., McKENZIE, R.A. and van WIJMEN, P.M., 1991. A comparison of the effects of two sitting postures on back and referred pain. Spine, 16(10), pp.1185-1191.
  4. Gupta, N., Christiansen, C.S., Hallman, D.M., Korshøj, M., Carneiro, I.G. and Holtermann, A., 2015. Is objectively measured sitting time associated with low back pain? A cross-sectional investigation in the NOMAD study. PloS one, 10(3), p.e0121159.
Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Founder

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

 

Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life.I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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