The irritation or compression of a nerve root in your lower spine can result in sciatica, typically felt as searing pain along your thigh, possibly extending into your leg and foot. Sciatica symptoms may be persistent and chronic or may flare up intermittently. Severe sciatica can be problematic—especially when you’re at the office and have to complete a full day of work.

Sciatica is not a diagnosis, but a symptom of an underlying lower back disorder.
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Sciatica Causes and Symptoms Video

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or bulging disc in your lower back.1,3 To help shift your focus off your pain and back to your job, here’s a guide to finding sciatica relief from a herniated or bulging disc while you’re at the office.

Read more about Sciatica Causes

Switch to a standing desk at regular intervals

When you sit, the stresses on the spinal discs in your lower back can increase up to 40%.4 For this reason, extended periods of sitting may cause your discs to irritate your sciatic nerve roots, aggravating your sciatica.

To help relieve the stress around the nerve roots in your lower back, try using a standing desk. Standing is an active process, and following an ergonomically supported standing posture can help relieve stresses on your lower back and minimize sciatica pain from a herniated or bulged disc. Aim to switch between a seated and standing posture intermittently during your workday. Gradually work your way up to longer periods of standing.

See 5 Unusual Office Chair Solutions to Help Your Back

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Take a short walk every hour

Spinal discs receive nutrition through the movement of fluids that occurs during exercise, which also increases blood flow. Research suggests that light exercise, such as walking, may help improve the transportation of nutritive fluids to the disc and improve the disc’s ability to adapt to spinal loads.5

When your work requires long periods at your desk, try to get up every hour and walk a short distance. Take slow, deep breaths and use a correct walking posture. Adding a recurring alarm on your phone or computer that prompts you to take a break and walk every hour may be helpful.

See 2 Walking Tips to Avoid Sciatica Pain

Try the seated nerve glide exercise

A useful exercise for herniated discs that can be performed while you’re seated in your office is the nerve glide exercise. This exercise helps relax and desensitize your sciatic nerve. To perform this exercise:

  1. Sit upright on a chair and straighten one knee while keeping your other foot flat on the floor.
  2. Slowly bend your ankle so that your toes are pointing towards you.
  3. Continue to bend your ankle back and forth, pointing your toes away from you and then toward you.
  4. As tolerated, to put more tension on the sciatic nerve, try the same nerve glide with your head bent forward, bringing your chin toward your chest.

Pump your ankle up and down 15 to 20 times and then repeat the exercise with your other leg. Aim to complete 3 rounds for each leg, twice a day.

See Sciatica Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

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If your sciatica symptoms continue to severely interfere with your workdays, consult your doctor for an in-depth diagnostic checkup. Your doctor may recommend medical treatment options, such as a guided physical therapy program, prescription pain medications, and/or lumbar epidural steroid injections.

Read more about Sciatica Treatment

Learn more:

Myths About Sciatica Treatment Options

Physical Therapy and Exercise for Sciatica

References

  • 1.Davis D, Maini K, Vasudevan A. Sciatica. [Updated 2020 Jan 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507908/
  • 2.Haugen AJ, Grøvle L, Brox JI, et al. Estimates of success in patients with sciatica due to lumbar disc herniation depend upon outcome measure. Eur Spine J. 2011;20(10):1669–1675. doi:10.1007/s00586-011-1809-3
  • 3.Xiang A, Xu M, Liang Y, Wei J, Liu S. Immediate relief of herniated lumbar disc-related sciatica by ankle acupuncture: A study protocol for a randomized controlled clinical trial. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(51):e9191. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000009191
  • 4.Amin RM, Andrade NS, Neuman BJ. Lumbar Disc Herniation. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2017;10(4):507–516. doi:10.1007/s12178-017-9441-4
  • 5.Hendrick P, Te Wake AM, Tikkisetty AS, Wulff L, Yap C, Milosavljevic S. The effectiveness of walking as an intervention for low back pain: a systematic review. Eur Spine J. 2010;19(10):1613–1620. doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1412-z
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