Category Archives: Sitting

How To Get Rid of Sciatica Pain

If you suffer from sciatica pain it is because the sciatic nerve is compromised. The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and goes down along the back of the leg. So when the nerve is affected, pain can occur either in the low back or the back of your thigh. Sciatic pain usually only happens on one side, but it can occasionally affect both legs. 

The pain caused by sciatica can vary greatly. According to patients it can range from a mild dull ache to unbearable and excruciating pain. 

Several things can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve. A herniated disc for example will press against the sciatic nerve. Or bone spurs on the vertebrae can also press on the nerve. 

But sitting for long periods of time is often the biggest culprit for causing sciatic pain. Inactivity and sitting can be detrimental to our health in many ways. But the sciatic nerve is particularly sensitive to inactivity, as we actually sit on the nerve directly. 

Our lower backs have increased pressure when we sit down, and this compresses the sciatic nerve. We also rarely sit in the correct position. Even if we have ergonomic chairs and are aware enough to sit with good posture, remaining in the same position for long periods of time can still be detrimental. Our bodies are designed to move. 

For example when we sit in front of our computer screens, we often hold our heads in the same position for a long time, and this negatively affects our posture and back alignment. 

As the sciatica nerve begins in the lower back you could be forgiven for thinking the neck cannot be linked to the sciatic nerve. But upper cervical misalignment can be the cause of pain in the sciatic nerve. Our whole spines are connected with soft tissue that can cause pain anywhere along the spine. So even when the neck is misaligned or any of the soft tissue is damaged, this can cause pain in the lower back. 

The most common age group of people who suffer from sciatica is age 35 – 55. Being a smoker, being overweight or having a demanding manual job can also increase the likelihood of suffering sciatica pain. Also people with diabetes are more likely to be affected by sciatica.

So what is the solution?

Long term solutions include losing weight, giving up smoking and getting a physically less demanding job. 

Shorter term solutions include increasing your overall health by being more active. And to take regular breaks from sitting, especially sitting at a computer. 

I personally only ever suffer sciatica when I have not been walking or active for several days. And that only happens these days if I am too ill to go out. So thankfully, hardly ever. 

As well as walking every day, I also do my exercise videos, even if only for ten minutes a day. And I can happily report that I never get sciatic pain in these conditions. 

There are a few stretches that effectively treat sciatica. Don’t be tempted to do any of them without first having a substantial warm-up. And I would recommend being gently active for several days before attempting any kind of stretches if you have been inactive at all recently.

Once you have become more active over a few days, then a hamstring stretch is good for the sciatic nerve because it stretches the whole of the back of the leg and buttocks. I do this stretch every day, as it’s also great for the lower back, so if you have lower back pain or sciatica, this is a great stretch to do. 

The full version is to stand upright, then bend over as far as you can. If you cannot bend over very far, then put one foot more forward than the other, put your weight on the leg further back, and bend the knee of this leg. Now rest both hands just above the knee of the bent rear leg, and bend your top half over as far as you can to stretch the hamstring of the leg the leg you have in front. 

This also stretches the lower back and buttocks. And by making a small change, you can also stretch the calf muscle. Stay in the same position, but lift just the toes of the front leg off the floor, so you have your heel on the floor and your foot is upright. This stretches the low back, buttocks, hamstring and calf. This is a great all round stretch that I recommend every day after a good warm up of course. 

Regardless of the initial cause of your sciatica, if you are even a little bit active, don’t sit too long at once and do this stretch every day, you will definitely notice a reduction in sciatic pain, and possibly eliminate it altogether.

As Your Fear Grows, So Too Will Your Pain

Do you associate a particular activity with back pain? Or other chronic pain?

Perhaps every time you walk, you have pain. Or when you sit or stand.

I found an interesting site by Eddie who does yoga. He has also discovered that the mind is responsible for a lot of your pain and for making it worse. His teacher told him that the mind always wants to make a big drama out of everything.

In another post The Turning Point, he talks about Dr John Sarno’s book Healing Back Pain, and says that after he read the part about associating a particluar activity with pain, he was able to take measures to prevent it happening in the future. The activity that triggered his pain was sitting. He had spent days avoiding sitting! Imagine how hard that must have been.

But the turning point of the title was when he used affirmations and communicated to his unconscious mind the way Sarno suggests, and it worked. He told himself he was well, and had nothing to fear. He reminded himself by putting up notes all over his house!

Now, that is the sort of stuff you should be doing! – Not complaining about the pain and reaffirming to yourself that you are unwell. Remember, the body cannot heal itself when it is under stress. Don’t add to the stress by telling yourself you are in pain and never going to get better.

It is possible to get better, and these change in attitude and behavior are the first step.


One Cause of Neck Pain – Forward Head Posture

forward head positionHave you noticed you get more neck pain than you used to? Or more headaches than you used to?

One of the most common culprits for causing neck pain, upper back pain and headaches is Forward Head Posture or Forward Head Position (FHP).

Forward Head Posture can also increase insomnia and breathing problems. It’s a completely abnormal position for our heads to be in. The head should always be positioned directly over the body so that your neck is aligned with your back. Your back and neck is designed to support the head, but only when it is directly above it!

When you lean your head forward, you are demanding more work of your neck and back muscles. And as they are not used to this movement, they will ache. You are also actually producing the equivalent of adding more weight to your back and neck , in the same way that holding a heavy object with outstretched arms will seem a lot heavier than holding it close to your chest.

There are no prizes for guessing what the biggest culprit is, in making our heads universally want to move forward! Yup. Our computer screens.

So how do we get rid of this pain?

Well, the first thing is to stop our bad habits, and refrain from leaning forward. People with headrests on their office chairs are a lot less likely to be guilty of holding their heads forward. When you have a headrest, you can lean your head back against it, and even recline back a bit. This is mostly how I sit in my marvellous Kinnarps 6000+ chair.

One thing you could try is to move your monitor closer to you. How much space do you actually need between you and the monitor anyway?

I know some people have their keyboards in between, but really, it’s better to have the keyboard on a shelf lower than the desk, so your arms are in the correct position. If you have that luxury, then bring your monitor closer to the front of your desk. There! –You’ve just increased your monitor size in two seconds – for free!

Also, most browsers let you increase the size of the text, by pressing Control and + together. Make sure you have just the text set to increase; not the pics too, or they’ll all be poor quality. You can change this in View > Zoom > Text Only in Firefox.

People laugh when they see the size of my screen text, and ask me if I’m half blind, but although I have 20/20 vision, I think why should I have to squint or move my head forward to read people’s miniscule online text? I work online all day – I might as well make the experience as comfortable as possible. Also, it ensures I get fewer headaches.

But what if you’ve got into the habit of having your neck forward the whole time, or for a lot of the time?

One great way to stop it, is to set an hourly timer. I have a stopwatch that bleeps on the hour every hour. And when I hear it, I check my posture, and re-adjust it if I’m not sitting straight, and I check my To Dos to make sure I haven’t got distracted. Trust me the hourly chime does wonders!

If you use this technique you’ll get out of the habit of poking your head forward pretty quickly.

I actually set up a video camera to record me for an hour on the PC a few months back. I was aware that I wasn’t aware (!) of my posture while I’m in the moment and concentrating on my work. I’m happy to report, I only lurched forward once, and that was when I saw a shocking headline, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so I took a closer look! (like him in the pic above!) But the rest of the time, my posture was pretty good.

So to prevent FHP and minimize the chance of getting back pain, neck pain and headaches:

  • Move your monitor closer to you
  • Increase text size
  • Use an hourly chime to check your posture regularly
  • If possible, get a ergonomics chair with a head rest (and arm rests)

And remember:

“No good deed goes unpunished”

So don’t stick your neck out – it’ll hurt!


Air Conditioning Is Bad For Your Back Pain

air con affects back painIn the last post I talked about ergonomic chairs that support the lumbar spine  in the right place, but even some ergonomic chairs, still fail to keep the back warm, because they have a mesh becking. This allows cold air from air conditioning vents to pass through.

While this is great when you first arrive at work, after you have been running up the stairs, it is not ideal after two hours of sitting down, when workers’ body temperature has considerably dropped. No-one thinks to turn the air conditioning down or increase the air temperature after an hour or so, and this too can save people’s backs.

People who are prone to back pain should not be sat near or in the path of air vents, as this can worsen their condition. It is an invisible threat and so often goes unnoticed, even by the sufferers themselves. For the people who are always hot, and insist on the air-con being ramped up to full power (“cranked up to 11” as Spinal  Tap – scuse the pun – would say!), those individuals should have an additional small fan in their faces (it’s usually their faces that need the breeze most).

Here’s another silly thing that a lot of employers do that costs them more money. They have the air con on full all day, but it’s set to room temperature. You can achieve the same results  if you have the air con on low and set to room temperature. It just takes longer initially!

Turning it up to full power is only needed for a short amount of time to change the temperature quickly.

So tell your employer you know a cool way (sorry, I’m all puns today) that they can save money on electricity AND on sick days from people with bad backs, simply by having the air con on low!

Image by Kenkwsiu on Flickr


Top 10 Ways To Prevent Back Pain When Sitting

Top 10 back pain tips when sittingSome employers are waking up to the fact that their employees need to be kept comfortable while working, in order to reduce the number of sickness days due to chronic pain; most notably Back Pain.

The Oman Observer reports that staff at Omantel are being asked “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” as part of a new campaign to reduce the number of back pain incidents and promote better posture so that they look after their backs and stay healthy.
The Omantel Human Resources Unit know that encouraging people to sit properly with the correct posture was vital in acheiving better health and safety standards at work.

Employees are also being given individual questionnaires that help them judge if their backs are healthy and give them practical advice on what to do to make sure their backs stay pain free and injury free. See the full story Here.

More companies need to follow suit. It’s fine to provide them with ergonomic chairs, but many people don’t sit correctly in them, or make the biggest mistake of all; they stay in the same position for too long.

It’s essential to change position regularly, and to stretch and exercise while sitting down for long periods of time. You can achieve this by doing the following exercises; all of which can be done while sitting:

  • Shoulder rolls
  • Shoulders up (for two seconds at a time)
  • Head rolls
  • Arm Stretches
  • Elbow rolls (similar to the funky chicken, but circular)
  • Buttock clenches
  • Thigh clenches
  • Back stretch (arms back, arch the back and face the ceiling – ONLY for a few seconds)
  • Hand stretches (spread the finger out, together with regular making of fists – NO punching people!!)
  • Abdominal clenches  (while rolling your back forward for a few seconds – chin on chest)

posture at workDo these every 20 minutes if possible. No fewer than every 60 minutes. You might want to TELL people beforehand, so they understand what you are doing! In fact why not do a presentation on this for everyone to use?

Some companies don’t even supply their staff with ergonomic chairs, which is a FALSE economy, when they end up losing their staff to back problems.

My personal favorite ergonomic chair is the Kinnarps PLUS 6000 series, and it MUST have arm rests. See one Here. They come in hundreds of different colors and fabrics. And they’re very solid and durable. I have had mine since 2003 and it’s still going strong.

But the best advice to reduce back pain when sitting is to move about when on your breaks. So many people just continue to sit at their desks and look at their emails, or browse the internet. Get up and go for a walk, even if only for five minutes, and it will make all the difference to your back.