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Why is my sciatic pain worse after sitting on the couch?

Sciatica pain usually begins from the lower back and radiates to one leg but may involve both legs in some cases. Patients may feel it as a dull ache of mild to moderate intensity or severe pain described as the worst kind of pain they experienced in their life.

Sciatica affects mostly men and women between the age of 35 -55 years. Other risk factors are; over- weight; smoking; stress and working in construction business or driving for long periods or overzealous weight lifters.

Sciatica usually results from sciatic nerve compression, which is caused by bone spurs, subluxations (misalignment of vertebra), herniated discs (slipped or bulging discs), tumors and certain other conditions such as pregnancy and child birth, diabetes and constipation. People also frequently complain that their sciatic pain is much more worsened after sitting for a longer period on a couch. Researchers explored into the reason for this aggravation of pain and they came up with an explanation. Scientific evidence demonstrated that most of the lower back pains including sciatic pain occur due to irritation of the discs between the spines. Even in the absence of bulging or herniation of discs, back pain or sciatica may still occur due to irritation of the central part of the disc called annulus.

When you are sitting on a soft surface such as the couch, your lower spinal vertebra- lumbar vertebra curve forward in a “flexion” position, this exerts pressure on the front side of the disc resulting in displacement of annulus backwards. At the back of the vertebra are the spinal nerves, and continuous repeated contact of the annulus with spinal nerves results in irritation and pain in the back that radiates to the leg (sciatica).

In this situation, your chiropractor may help you to stabilize your back with chiropractic adjustments. However, till the flexion position or slouching on couch becomes pain-free, it is advisable that you use a lumbar support roll while you are watching TV or sitting on your couch reading a book. But moderation is the key, nature designed our bodies for movement, therefore take a “motion break” after every 15-20 minutes and do few stretches or go get a glass of water for you.

[i] Koes, B. W., van Tulder, M. W., & Peul, W. C. (2007). Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 334(7607), 1313–1317. http://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39223.428495.BE

[ii] https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/sciatica/what-you-need-know-about-sciatica-now

[iii] https://ducatchiropractic.com/2017/10/28/back-pain-sciatica-much-worse-sitting-couch-happening/