My daughter had a basketball tournament this past weekend and our organization hosted the tournament. This meant that all of the parents were to volunteer their time to help with concessions, tickets, books, and/or running the clock. I opted to run the clock because I am familiar with it… I did for some of my daughter’s middle school games. I arrived early and planned to run the clock for the first three games.
It was about mid morning when I started to fidget. I couldn’t get comfortable. It was most likely the bleachers I was sitting on or the fact that the score table was sitting too low. Either way, I started noticing some numbness going down my legs. It wasn’t a feeling of “falling asleep” in my legs, it was definitely radiating from my low back. Many years ago I had trouble with a disc injury in my low back. From time to time it will flare up again. Almost every time it flares up, the culprit is sitting.
Here is why I am sharing this story with you. Most of you reading this probably sit for long periods of time throughout the day. Whether you are at an office, sitting in a cubicle, or on the road in a sales position, most of you sit throughout the day. The longer you sit, the more pressure it places on your discs and your nerves. The pressure over time causes irritation on the supporting joints and structures in the low back. If there is too much irritation, your body will send off a warning signal in the form of pain, numbness, tingling, or burning.
The best thing for you to do in this situation is to limit the amount of time you are sitting. If you sit at a desk all day long, try to get up every 10-15 minutes for a quick stretch before returning to your work. If you have the option of using a standing desk, I would recommend switching from standing to sitting throughout the day. If you are in the car a lot or on planes, your options may be slightly more limited. I would still try to stretch every time you get out of the car, or every so often while you are on the plane.
Is sitting causing your back pain? Yes! Prolonged positions will wreak havoc on your body, which is why I am constantly telling my patients to keep moving as much as possible. Sitting is worse than other prolonged positions because of the amount of pressure placed on the lumbar discs. If you add subtle vibration (i.e. travelling in a plane or in a car) then the damage can be amplified. Try not to sit for long periods of time. Do your best to change the position often, or you may end up with really severe back pain.
Sitting is the new smoking!
Dr Spencer Charlet