Degenerative disc disease is a common problem. It is thought to afflict more than 3 million people in the United states each year and can be the result of the loss of cushioning between vertebrae, of herniation or fragmentation, or other aging processes, and usually impacts the neck or the lower back. Though the problem can’t be cured, there are many things that can be done to address its symptoms. One of the best ways to avoid pain is to know what triggers it.
Not everybody will experience degenerative disc disease in the same way. For some people the pain makes itself known when they first get out of bed in the morning, then resolves as they loosen up and exercise throughout the day. Some people find that their symptoms worsen after long periods of sitting, while others have pain after staying on their feet for an extended period of time. This has led to one of the questions we are most frequently asked at our New Jersey lumbar spine center: is it better for a person with degenerative disc disease to stand or to sit? The answer is that there is no right answer.
Because everybody is different and has different parts of their back undergoing the degenerative process, what causes their pain will also be different. In most cases the correct answer is not to look to one or the other position as a cause of pain or relief, but instead to find the right balance between the two.
Just as sitting in one position for too long can cause back pain and make it difficult to rise out of your chair or take a few steps, the same is true of standing on your feet for too long. Movement is the key to your spine working and staying as pain free as possible, so no matter what your work obligations are or what you are doing, it is important to shift your position from time to time. Taking a walk around the block if you’ve been seated or sitting down and relaxing your back for a few minutes if you’ve been on your feet will do a world of good.
Many workplaces have tried to address their employees’ back pain problems by installing standing desks. Though these make good sense, they are even more helpful if they are adjustable and allow workers to move back and forth between the two positions. Doing so will prevent the feeling of your back seizing and keep you loose and limber. If you’re working from home as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns, movement becomes even more important. Home work setups are all-too-often haphazardly chosen and not ergonomically suitable to a person whose back is already at risk. Make sure that you take a break and stretch or take a walk.
If the pain of degenerative disk disease is becoming a constant, we can help. Contact our New Jersey spine practice today to set up a time for a consultation.