The symptoms you experience from a disc herniation will vary according to which disc has been herniated and the extent of the damage. While certain lumbar disc herniations will be more painful than others, incorrect posture will always have the potential to increase your symptoms and discomfort.
Watch: Lumbar Herniated Disc Video
A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus pulposus (the soft center of the spinal disc) breaches the annulus fibrosus (tougher layers of tissue around the outside of the disc) and affects one the the sensitive nerve roots near the disc.
Read on to learn more about key ways bad posture can aggravate your lumbar herniated disc:
Using incorrect posture when lifting
Overexerting your lower back when lifting can make your lumbar herniated disc more painful.
If you lift with only your back, additional pressure is put on the lower spine, which may weaken a herniated disc.
However, lifting with your legs can help reduce your odds of injury. Whether you’re lifting weights or just moving a few heavy objects around the house, practice correct lifting form:
- Bend with your hips to keep your chest facing forward, this will keep your back straight and reduce the pressure on your lumbar spinal discs, preventing further herniation.
See Avoid Back Injury with the Right Lifting Techniques
- Keep your hips in line with your shoulders, so when you turn your shoulders follow your hips. Never allow your lower back to twist while lifting, as this shear force on your lumbar discs and increases your risk of disc injury.
Lifting with improper form, even for a second, can put your lumbar discs at a heightened risk of injury.
Hunching forward when sitting
While you might not think of sitting as high-impact, it can be—in fact, the discs of your lumbar spine are compressed three times more when sitting than standing.
When you sit for long periods of time, you tend to slouch—and slouching can overstretch your spinal ligaments and strain your lumbar herniated disc.
To minimize stress on the discs in your lower back while sitting in the car or at your desk, practice correct sitting posture:
- Put something underneath your feet to keep them slightly elevated. Sitting with your knees slightly higher than your hips eliminates much of the pressure on your lumbar spine.
- Sit up straight with your back against the backrest of the chair—slouching will put additional pressure on your lordosis, the curve of your lower spine. Keep your back straight and your buttocks pushed up flush against the bottom of the backrest.
The single best thing you can do for your lumbar spine is to avoid sitting for long periods. Sitting places more pressure on the lumbar spinal discs than standing does, so taking breaks to stand or walk around periodically will reduce the risk of aggravating a lumbar herniated disc.
Using incorrect posture when walking
When herniated discs of the lumbar spine can sometimes impinge upon the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain. But when you practice healthy walking posture, you align your bones, discs, and muscle tissues in a way that leaves the sciatic nerve untouched. For walking posture that supports your lumbar spine:
See Sciatica Causes
- Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in. This helps to support the load of your torso and upper spine, reducing pressure on your lumbar spine. You may benefit from  core strengthening exercises.
- Keep your shoulders in line with your hips. Similar to slouching while sitting, leaning forward while walking can put pressure on the natural curve of your lumbar spine and can put excess pressure on the discs.
It may take time and repetition to develop this posture. If you have a lumbar herniated disc you may experience a noticeable reduction in sciatica pain when walking with this posture regularly.