How to Sit Comfortably With Sciatica

June 04, 2019

Woman sitting at her work desk looking happy and pain-free.
Renée Bacher

If compressed, the sciatic nerve, which is a thick cord that runs down your low back and branches out through the hips and legs, may cause pain and numbness in the affected leg. This pain, called sciatica, can worsen if you're seated at a desk all day, so it's important to find the best sitting position for sciatica and work in some simple stretches while you're at the office.

Signs and Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, the classic sign of sciatica is a radiating pain that travels from the lumbar spine to the back of a single leg and into that same buttock, sometimes all the way down to that calf. Occasionally, there can be muscle weakness and a tingling feeling in the leg that is affected. You may feel numbness in the foot on that side, too. Sometimes, in an attempt to alleviate sciatica pain, you may find yourself wanting to dig your fist into the muscles of the affected buttock.

Sciatica discomfort can vary from person to person and in some it may present simply as numbness or a gentle ache. Others may feel as if their leg is on fire, or they can't sit down without terrible pain. Even if the pain isn't excruciating, figuring out how to sit comfortably with sciatica can be a challenge.

Causes

A bone spur or a herniated disc are the most common causes of sciatica, and both of these can occur with advanced age. If you have diabetes, this condition, which can create nerve damage in general, can also damage the sciatic nerve. And rarely, the sciatic nerve can be pinched if you have developed a tumor in the low back. Obesity can also trigger sciatica by putting additional stress on your spine, as can work that requires carrying heavy objects or sitting for long periods either at a desk or driving.

In-Office Exercises to Alleviate the Pain

The best exercise you can do in the office to alleviate sciatica, according to Stewart G. Eidelson, MD, is to stand up from your desk every 20 and take a brief stroll.

The best sitting position for sciatica is actually standing, not sitting. A standing desk may be very useful if you are prone to sciatica. Keep a stool or stack of books nearby and alternate resting one foot at a time on it to help change your position.

How to Sit Comfortably With Sciatica

If you do have to sit for some portion of the day, here is how to sit comfortably with sciatica (or as comfortably as possible), according to Dr. Eidelson:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, legs uncrossed.
  • If your hips and knees are not at a 45 degree angle with your feet flat on the floor, elevate them by placing a low stool or some books beneath your feet.
  • Do not hunch over your work. Bring your computer closer to your face or elevate it so you can sit properly with your shoulders relaxed.
  • Avoid twisting your body as much as possible. If your chair has wheels, use them to reach what you need while keeping your body in the proper alignment.

The good news is that mild sciatica will often go away on its own. If your pain worsens or lasts longer than a week, see your doctor. If the pain is sudden, severe, the result of a physical trauma or you cannot control your bladder or bowels after its onset, seek emergency medical treatment.

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