Research has discovered that the majority of low back pain and sciatica is due to irritation of the discs between the vertebrae of the lumbar spine (low back). Even if you do not have disc bulges or herniations, there can be referred pain in your back or legs coming from irritation of the center of the disc called the annulus.
When you sit on a soft surface (such as your couch), the lumbar spine tends to curve forward, into a position called flexion. This puts pressure at the front of the discs, pushing the annulus towards the back of the spine, where the nerves are. With enough repetition, this can cause irritation inside the disc, which causes low back and/or leg pain, depending on the location of the inflammation. Just check out my video showing this positioning problem below.
As I evaluate low back pain and sciatica patients, I try to watch for aggravating positions such as watching TV on the couch. For someone with back pain, watching their nightly show can be enough to “pick at the scab” of their disc and cause increased symptoms.
Until they have stabilized and can show me that they are no longer sensitive to flexion or slouchy positions, I encourage patients with low back pain or sciatica to avoid couches without a lumbar support roll like the plague. After completing a full strengthening program, they can return to sitting on the couch, but several hour Netflix marathons are probably never a good idea. The body craves movement!
P.S. I use a McKenzie lumbar support roll at my desk to reduce pressure on my back as I write blogs like this or complete patient charts. It was designed by a physical therapist and works very well. We have them in stock at our office in Light, Regular and Firm densities. On your next visit (or just stop by), ask if they would help you and pick one up. They are $20 plus tax.
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