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Ergonomics and Sciatica

Ergonomics is the study of how your body moves during work. Ergonomists study the physical demands of work (in all kinds of jobs and work environments) and teach employers and employees how to perform tasks with as little risk for injury as possible.

What does this have to do with sciatica? Actually, a lot! If you have sciatica, you know low back, buttock, and leg pain can make working painfully difficult. Applying simple ergonomic principles to everyday activities may help get you through the work weekhopefully with less pain.

Take a Seat
Sitting for long periods of time isn't going to feel good. If possible, take a stand up break every 20 minutes and walk a couple of laps around your workspace.

Make sitting more tolerable by choosing a well-designed ergonomic chair, or adding low back support, such as a rolled-up towel.

Other tips: Don't cross your legs, position feet flat on the floor, and keep hips and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.

Take a Stand
Don't bend at the waist to get up from your chair! Bending over at the waist can stretch and aggravate an already irritable sciatic nerve. Instead, slide to the front of the seat and stand up by straightening your legs.

Do Wheelies
If your chair has wheels, use them! Instead of twisting and turning your body, use the chair to move your body as a single unit.

Stay Close to Work
Keep your work close to avoid bending forward. Again, forward bending can aggravate your sciatic nerve. Keep your shoulders relaxed and rest your elbows and arms on the desk.

Tech Tips for Computer Users
Creating an ergonomic computer workstation is easy. Consider these 3 tips:

  • Position the monitor in front of you at eye level.
  • Keep the keyboard and mouse close. (Don't reach!)
  • Choose a chair that provides good back support.

By incorporating each point, you can avoid leaning (or slumping) forward.

Standing Around
Avoid standing in one place for a long time. If your job requires standing, try resting one foot on a small sturdy box or stool. Alternate every 10 to 15 minutes.

Muscle Smarts
Avoid or limit movements that require muscular force, such as pushing a sofa or picking up a table. Carrying a purse, briefcase, groceries, or luggage can present a challenge. A good tip is to carry an equal amount of weight in each hand. This might be a good time to rid your purse or briefcase of unnecessary stuff.

Mattress Matters
At the end of a long day you want to get off your feet and rest. However, what you rest your back on can affect how goodor badyou feel the next day. If your mattress is soft and lumpy, your spine will not be properly supported, leading to muscle fatigue and a poor night's sleep.

Whatever you do, remember: If a little time, ice/heat, and over-the-counter medications don't help relieve your sciatica, then you should see your doctor. He or she can determine what is causing your sciatica and will develop a treatment plan to get you back on track quickly.

Updated on: 09/07/12
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