I used to sit through the ergonomic presentations in trainings at my job and feel like nap might be more relevant to me. I was young and healthy and fit and I didn’t see any need to worry about concerns that seemed like they were relevant only to the older people that I worked with.
I sat at my desk with my chair in whatever position I felt like sitting in that day. Maybe I wanted to recline for a large part of the day, or maybe I felt like sitting sideways and working with one hand on my mouse for most of the day. Whatever, I thought. I was comfortable so it was fine.
What Sciatica Feels Like
At first, my symptoms were fairly mild. I would have numbness in one of my feet, or sometimes I would feel like my legs were tingling until I got up and moved around. Things grew progressively worse, however, and I found myself gasping with pain that felt like a lightning bolt shooting down my back and into my legs. Sneezing or coughing made the pain even worse.
Eventually my whole day was comprised of hobbling to my desk to sit uncomfortably in my chair while sharp, stabbing pain radiated from my lower back, through my buttocks and all the way down my legs to my feet. I quit going to the gym, thinking that if I rested my body and took anti-inflammatories, I would get better. I did not get better.
Finally, I broke down and went to the New York back pain doctor recommended by one of my friends. The doctors there explained to me that sciatica is usually caused when a herniated disc or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve and what I have been facing were some of the most common symptoms. The doctors also suggested that with regular postural training and modern treatment methods like Electromyography I will surely recover in a few week.
What to do to Heal
My doctor asked me a few short questions, most of which were about how I was sitting at my desk all day. I answered them honestly, sitting miserably on the cold, hard exam table and cringing as pain shot up and down my legs.
The good news was that my sciatica pain was going to go away. The bad news was that I had made this mess for myself, all because I had ignored all of the ergonomic suggestions that my company had been asking us to comply with. Things like sitting with your feet on the floor, making sure that your chair is set up to provide lower back support and making sure that the cushion itself is the right size for your so that you have a gap of about 2-4 inches behind your legs when you sit down.
Thankfully, my doctor was armed with a physical therapy plan and sent me back to my boss with a list of things that I needed to do to improve my situation at work so I could heal. I did some research into the best office chair for sciatica pain and the wonderful ergonomics specialist at my office was able to find me the right chair and help me to set it up correctly.
I never understood that I could cause damage to my body by just sitting incorrectly for many hours a day, that is not until it was real and it was ruining my life. Some people have to have surgery on their spine due to this kind of damage, but I was lucky enough to heal through physical therapy, time and proper ergonomic set up at my desk.
Your body is an important part of your productivity and ability to succeed at your job. Those boring ergonomic talks that you have to sit through at your job are actually a wealth of information that I wish I had taken more seriously. Avoid having to recuperate from an avoidable injury and prioritize the ergonomics of your work space. Your body will thank you for it.