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Can extended periods of sitting cause a bulging disc?

Many studies have shown that long periods of sitting can result in a number of negative health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and blood clots. Prolonged sitting can also put a strain on your spine. In fact, the compression of spinal discs is three-times greater when sitting than standing. For all of these reasons, it’s understandable to wonder if extended sitting can cause a bulging disc.

While it may certainly aggravate symptoms associated with this condition, it is highly unlikely lengthy sitting can cause a bulging disc in and of itself. The most common reason discs become misshapen is deterioration due to the natural aging process. These structures slowly lose their elasticity as their outer walls dehydrate. Eventually, they can no longer fully support the weight of the upper torso and begin to flatten, bulging outward in the process. Although not as frequent, other causes of bulging discs include repetitive heavy lifting, participation in contact sports and traumatic injury.

While long periods of sitting can worsen symptoms of a bulging disc, there are some strategies you can use to help mitigate the negative effects of being in a chair for most of the day. These include:

  • Maintaining proper posture. Keeping your back straight, your shoulders back, your feet flat on the ground and your weight balanced evenly between your hips will help to maintain proper spinal alignment.
  • Using the right chair. A high-quality chair should offer enough adjustability to set the seat and armrest height, seat pitch, and backrest position to provide adequate support for your lower back and buttocks. If need be, a lumbar cushion can be added for extra support.
  • Moving every 30 minutes. Even if it’s only to stand and stretch, changing your body position twice an hour will prevent muscles and tendons from stiffening and relieve some pressure on spinal discs, allowing them to decompress.
  • Consider a standing desk. If you have the option, a standing desk will allow you to alternate between working on your feet and sitting. This can be an ideal situation for patients with bulging discs as it reduces strain on both the neck and back while strengthening core muscle.

If you have been pursuing conservative treatment options for a bulging disc and are still experiencing chronic neck or back pain, you may want to consider surgery to alleviate your symptoms. Contact USA Spine Care today to learn about our minimally invasive outpatient procedures that have helped thousands of patients find lasting relief from pain associated with spinal conditions such bulging and herniated discs. And be sure to ask how you can obtain a free MRI review* to help determine if you might be a candidate for our surgeries.

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