Back in January, I wrote about How Your Job is Giving You a Headache. Well today, almost a year later, I’m going to tell you why it’s a pain in your butt (and leg, and maybe your low back) as well.
There are several, avoidable causes of sciatica and many of those are found on the job. I’ve listed the most common ones below along with a few tips to help prevent it:
Prolonged standing – If your job requires you to stand more than you walk, you’re at risk for sciatica. The problem with standing all day is that after a while your muscles (and your feet) begin to fatigue. This causes you to do things like lock your knees, put one foot or leg forward, or even cock your hip to one side to give your tired feet and muscles a break. The problem with these coping strategies is that they put the body into a far-from-optimal posture. This in turn puts pressure on nerves, pulls muscles into an overly elongated state which will make them contact or spasm to protect themselves, and/or causes further compensations like vertebrae “going out” or twisted hips. Any of these can cause you to feel the pain of sciatica. If you stand all day, the best thing you can do is to move as much as possible: try walking in place, or taking a few steps forward, backward, or to either side every 20-30 minutes, or stretch your legs and hips whenever possible (every 20-30 minutes if you can). The second best thing you can do is to walk at lunch or break time; take 10 minutes to sit and eat your lunch, then walk around the block or the building to get those muscles moving and to work out the kinks.
Prolonged sitting – If your job requires you to sit for most (or all) of the day, you also have a high likelihood of developing a case of sciatica. Our bodies are not meant to be stationary all day and that includes sitting. As bad as prolonged sitting can be, don’t make it worse by crossing your legs, slouching, leaning forward, or sitting at an angle to your work. If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that has an ergonomics specialist, take advantage of the resource and have your workstation evaluated (and hopefully optimized). If you’re tied to a desk all day here are a few things you can do to decrease the likelihood of feeling sciatica’s burn: stand and stretch every 20-30 minutes, hand deliver documents and messages, walk over to your coworker’s desk or boss’s office to ask your question instead of picking up the phone or shooting them an email, and/or make enough trips to the water cooler to stay properly hydrated. Also, If there’s any part of your job that can be done while standing, do it.
Tool belts -This one is pretty simple. Tool belts hang over the hips and wreak havoc with the pelvic girdle, especially the sacrum. When the pelvis is “out of whack” it’s much easier for sciatica to find you. My helpful hints for you are to: 1) Keep your tool belt as balanced as possible so that the weight is equally distributed. 2) Take the toolbelt off whenever you can, especially breaks and lunch. If you have to walk a distance, take the belt off and carry it to give your hips a break.
Constant heavy lifting and/or twisting – I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that lots of heavy lifting and any amount of twisting is bad for your low back, but it can also wreak havoc with your hips. I have two tips to help keep yourself pain free: 1) When lifting anything bend at the knees, not the hips or the waist. You should never bend at the waist anyway, but that’s for another post. 2) Instead of twisting (and torquing your back), move with your feet and pivot instead.
So there you have it; the proof you need that work is a pain in the backside. And you thought it was just a figure of speech.
Do you have any tips that work for you that I failed to mention? If so, I’d love to hear them and so would my readers. Please leave them in the comments so we all can benefit! And of course, if you like this post hit the like button below and share it throughout social media land. AND if you read the blog via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn please like, share, retweeet, etc. Thanks!!