Most people think of sitting as a way to take a load off and relax. However, this isn’t always the case—at least not if sitting seems to trigger or worsen spine-related discomfort. If you’re experiencing this type of pain on a regular basis, realize it’s not normal. To effectively manage or treat back pain associated with sitting, it helps to know what could be causing it. Here are some possibilities.
Sitting can aggravate a long nerve called the sciatic nerve that starts in the lower back and moves downward. Discomfort can be especially noticeable if growths called bone spurs develop in the affected area and irritate this nerve. If this is the case, sitting may contribute to:
• Local pain within the lower back area
• Shooting pain
• Numbness or weakness extending to the lower extremities
A disc that’s bulging or herniated tends to produce symptoms triggered by certain movements. If a disc in your lower back is affected, sitting can cause it to slip into a position that irritates a nearby nerve, especially if you aren’t mindful of your posture while you sit.
Other disc-related problems can contribute to back pain while sitting, including ones involving discs affected by age-related changes—referred to as degenerative disc disease. Over time, discs naturally become less spongy, which can result in a loss of disc height and an increase in nerve irritation. Treatments for degenerative disc disease include alternatives to spinal fusion. Los Angeles residents should be aware that excess weight, smoking, and inactivity are among the factors that can accelerate disc wear.
When the spinal canal in the lower back area narrows, it’s a condition called lumbar spinal stenosis. This narrowing can result in nerve compression or irritation that’s especially noticeable when sitting. While spinal narrowing does occur naturally with age, this process can be accelerated by unhealthy lifestyle habits and poor posture.
You’re not likely to experience a muscle strain from sitting, but an existing strain affecting spine-supporting muscles can become aggravated as you sit. Sitting for long periods may also contribute to pain related to an existing muscle strain.
Diagnosing back pain triggered or worsened by sitting typically involves a physical exam, a discussion of your symptoms and medical history, and image tests. Treatment often starts with conservative care, which normally includes:
• Anti-inflammatory medication
• Stretching exercises
• Hot and cold therapy and other passive physical therapy techniques
• Controlled exercise and other active physical therapy methods
• Posture education and postural exercises
If the treatments mentioned above aren’t successful, you may be advised to consider spinal manipulation, direct injections of steroid medication into the affected area, or alternative treatments such as chiropractic care. In some instances, minimally invasive surgery may be recommended to correct structural issues contributing to your back pain and related symptoms. As far as prevention goes, it’s best to be mindful of your posture and make an effort to minimize sitting for long periods as much as possible.
If you’re having severe or long-lasting back pain while you’re sitting, make sure to consult a Los Angeles spine surgeon for prompt diagnosis and treatment. The industry-leading spinal health experts at The Spine Institute are pioneers in analyzing the sources of back problems and using state-of-the-art methods to alleviate patients’ pain. Give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.