A number of factors contribute to the symptoms you experience from a lumbar herniated disc; including the extent of the herniation and the location of the disc. But you may be surprised to learn that situational factors, such as your posture, also play a role.
The dangers of poor lifting posture
You’ve likely heard the old adage “Lift with your legs, not your back.” While correct lifting form is more complicated than this, it is important to avoid placing a large working load on your lower back (lumbar spine)—as this additional strain can aggravate your herniated disc.
It doesn’t matter if you are lifting one empty box or a dozen heavy ones, it is always important to practice correct lifting form. Here are a few simple guidelines to help you do exactly that:
- Keep your chest forward. To help you keep a straight back while you lift, bend your hips—not your lower back—and try to keep your chest out.
- Lead with your hips. When you change directions while lifting an object, lead with your hips to avoid placing unnecessary stress on your lower back.
- Keep the object close to your body. Keep the item you are lifting as near to your body as you can.
Also, remember to lift within your limits—if a box feels too heavy for you to lift by yourself, it probably is too heavy.
The dangers of poor sitting posture
You may be surprised to learn that sitting places more stress on your spinal discs than standing. On top of this, most people tend to slouch forward when they sit at their desks for an extended period of time. In turn, this can overstretch your spinal ligaments and strain your herniated disc.
To help protect your lumbar herniated disc while sitting, try to incorporate the following pointers into your daily life:
- Keep your back flat against your chair, and also keep your shoulders tall with your head level over your spine.
- Keep your knees at the same level as your hips—or sit with your knees slightly above your hips if you are sitting at a desk.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. If you cannot reach the floor, you can purchase an inexpensive footrest.
Even if you have perfect sitting posture, make sure you keep moving throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to get out of your chair and move around every 20 to 30 minutes. You can go for a walk, stretch at your desk, or, at the very least, stand up and make phone calls for a few minutes.
The dangers of poor walking posture
Whether you are walking for exercise, or you are out running errands, poor walking posture can irritate your lumbar herniated disc. For example, overly-long strides place additional pressure on your herniated disc, which may aggravate your symptoms.
Here is how to walk with proper form:
- Don’t touch down with your toes. Land between your midfoot and heel, then roll to your toes and push off. This will shorten your strides because it’s hard to roll your foot when it’s far from your body.
- Walk slowly. A slower pace often means shorter steps. A simple guideline is that you should be able to keep up a conversation while you walk.
- Keep upright. Keep your head and shoulders tall, and try to focus on a spot far in front of you.
- Suck in your stomach. Pull in your stomach slightly towards your body as you walk. Make sure to take deep breaths and hold a comfortable pace, otherwise you won’t be able to keep your stomach pulled towards you.
- Avoid running or jogging. Running and jogging can increase the intradiscal pressure, which will worsen a disc herniation.
There is no guarantee that all of the above information will help you avoid any kind of symptoms from your lumbar herniated disc. But if you are mindful of your posture while lifting, sitting, and walking you might find significant relief from your pain.