How to Sit With a Herniated Disc

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How to Sit With a Herniated Disc

People who consult me often ask me about the optimal position for sitting with a herniated disc. You need to get the facts on how to sit with a herniated disc because if you get this wrong, it could lead to a worse condition.

As a general rule, when sitting with a herniated disc, you should always keep your hips 5-10 cm above your knees and wear proper lumbar support to relieve pressure on your disks. If you have a herniated disk, you should reduce any pressure on it. Avoid sitting for long periods over an hour.

This article will tell you how to sit the right way based on my 30 years of experience with treating herniated discs and working as an ergonomics specialist. I will give you some tips based on a book I wrote on avoiding low back pain while sitting and what to do if your back hurts. By following my simple recommendations in this blog, you will feel better and avoid back stiffness while sitting.

Is Sitting Bad for Herniated Disc?

man sciatica sitting office chair

The pain experienced by a person with a disc herniation may intensify with bad posture, and sitting can worsen it. Many things can exacerbate the pain experienced when suffering from a herniated disc including, sneezing, coughing, bending over and driving etc. 

How to Get Seat Right for Herniated Disc

  1. Seat height. Get your seat up as high as feasible.
  2. Foot placement. Make sure both feet are on the ground with legs at least shoulder-width apart.
  3. Use lumbar support.  You can use a small cushion or a rolled towel for lumbar support if your chair does not have one.
  4. Forward tilt.  Your hips need to be higher than your knees to relax your low back muscles. If your chair does not have this feature, sit on a wedge with the thicker end towards the back of the chair.
  5. Seat width.  Slide your seat out to the point that the space between the back of your knees and the edge of your chair is 2-3cm. The more surface that you sit on, the better you will feel. Replace your office chair if it doesn’t have this feature since it may have the most significant impact on reducing your sciatica pain while sitting.
  6. Monitor position.  Make sure that your monitor is at an arms-length distance and at eye level. Monitors that are too low may increase disc pressure from leaning forward

How to Sit in a Car With a Herniated Disc

sitting in car with herniated disc

It may be painful to travel while suffering from a herniated disc, but there are ways to minimize the discomfort. Here are a few tips:

  1. Get your car seat in the highest position possible.
  2. Bring your car seat back as far as (safely) possible.
  3. Stabilize the disk by sitting with good posture and using a rolled-up towel between your back and the affected area when driving. 
  4. While driving, you can also sit on a pillow or cushion to relieve the strain on the disc. 
  5. Speak to a doctor about the precautions you can take to limit the pressure on a herniated disc while driving.

What You Should Not Do With a Herniated Disc

things you should not do with herniated disc

The pain in your lower back from a herniated disc can be mild or debilitating but most often radiates to your leg. Although herniated discs gradually become less painful after a few weeks, many everyday activities can aggravate them. 

Avoid the Following with Herniated Disc:

  • Long periods of sittingYour lower back suffers more when you sit down, especially when you slouch forward while sitting.
  • Flexion or compressive exercises. While exercise is still important, it’s best to avoid intense movements that increase the pressure on your spinal discs, especially exercises in which you bend forward (flexion). 
  • Gardening. Mowing your lawn, raking leaves, and excessive bending can worsen your disc pain, as it often involves puts too much rotation and pressure on your discs.   
  • Vacuuming or Hoovering.  Herniated discs are easily irritated by the repetitive motion of vacuuming.

Fastest Way to Heal a Herniated Disc

  • Get your sleep right.  Various sleep positions can ease the pain of a herniated disc. As you likely know, lumbar herniated discs cause pain that can worsen during sleep.

How To Relieve Pressure on Your Spine:

  1. Mattress. Use a medium-firm (preferably natural latex) mattress.
  2. Back sleeping. Under your knees, you can insert a pillow to reduce back tension.
  3. Side sleeping. Put a pillow in between your knees while sleeping on your side to prevent your spine from sagging too far and keep your hips balanced.

  • Alternating heat and ice.  By alternately applying heat and ice, you can relieve immediate sciatic nerve pain. Ice can help reduce swelling, while heat can help speed healing. Both heat and ice may also help ease painful muscle spasms that often accompany sciatica.
  • Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression.  This therapy is a fancy name for mechanical traction. I feel this better than traction, however, because this therapy incorporates perpetual movement.
  • Chiropractic care.  Sciatica can also be treated effectively with the help of a good chiropractor.

Is Walking Good for Herniated Disc?

Walking Benefits for Herniated Disc

  1. It increases blood flow. Exercise helps increase blood flow through the muscles, improving their supply of oxygen and nutrients.
  2. Rids toxins. Walking helps flush out these toxins and improve flexibility.
  3. Improves low back flexibility. Lack of physical inactivity can cause your back and hips to become stiff. 

How Long Does Sciatica Pain From a Herniated Disc Last?

In my experience, most patients affected by acute sciatica will start to recover within two to three weeks.  However, some patients may develop chronic sciatica pain sporadically for several years, especially if the causative factor is a herniated disc.

woman with low back pain

It is always a good idea to get an MRI scan and a proper diagnosis. Please seek medical attention immediately if you experience sciatica symptoms longer than a week or if you have either bladder control or bowel control problems.

What Happens If a Herniated Disc Goes Untreated?

You shouldn’t ignore sciatic pain.  If left untreated, a herniated disc can permanently damage the disc, facet joints, and nerves. There are extremely rare cases where a disc rupture can cause you to lose bladder or bowel control and the supply of signals to the leg can also be cut off. 

MRI herniated disc

In my opinion, getting an MRI is always a good idea if you don’t feel better after staying with your sciatic pain for a long period. Knowing is better than guessing in my opinion.

Is Rest Good for Herniated Disc?

Typically, a doctor will advise two to seven days rest after a herniated disk. Being said that, if you have lower back pain or sciatica, you probably need to avoid over resting and stay as active as possible. Strengthening the spinal column with gentle activities and exercises will help reduce pressure on the spinal column.

Conclusion

I’ve worked with countless numbers of people who suffered from herniated discs, all of whom spent significant amounts of time sitting at the employment. To avoid the potential dangers of sitting with a herniated disc, I strongly advise you to consider the advice that I imparted with you today. By implementing these simple changes to your sitting environment, you should enjoy long-lasting beneficial effects. 

Numerous other factors may cause lower back problems, as well. That’s why it is always a good idea to get a proper diagnosis of your situation.

Lastly, remember is that unconscious and complacent movements will eventually make you break down. If you stay active and conscious throughout your day, your low back pain may go away. 

Sources:

  1. Wilder, D.G., Pope, M.H. and Frymoyer, J.W., 1988. The biomechanics of lumbar disc herniation and the effect of overload and instability. Journal of spinal disorders, 1(1), pp.16-32.   
  2. KELSEY, J.L., 1975. An epidemiological study of the relationship between occupations and acute herniated lumbar intervertebral discs. International Journal of Epidemiology, 4(3), pp.197-205.   
  3. Harrison, D.D., Harrison, S.O., Croft, A.C., Harrison, D.E. and Troyanovich, S.J., 2000. Sitting biomechanics, part II: optimal car driver’s seat and optimal driver’s spinal model. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 23(1), pp.37-47.   
  4. Olmarker, K., Iwabuchi, M., Larsson, K. and Rydevik, B., 1998. Walking analysis of rats subjected to experimental disc herniation. European Spine Journal, 7(5), pp.394-399.
  5. Belavý, D.L., Bansmann, P.M., Böhme, G., Frings-Meuthen, P., Heer, M., Rittweger, J., Zange, J. and Felsenberg, D., 2011. Changes in intervertebral disc morphology persist 5 mo after 21-day bed rest. Journal of applied physiology, 111(5), pp.1304-1314.
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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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