How Sitting Results in High Loads to the Vertebral Disks

Many people who, having had the experience of back pain while standing for long periods of time, and the subsequent relief that comes from sitting, have difficulty understanding just how sitting can place undue pressure to the vertebral disks. In order to understand this concept better, let's have a look at the following:

1). First, the distinction must be made between the back muscles and the vertebral disks. When you stand for long periods, the disk pressure is relatively low, but you nevertheless feel pain, which is a result of fatigued low-back muscles.

2). Increased pressure on the disks in and of itself does not necessarily result in immediate pain. Thus, we are often unaware of this pressure, which in the long term can lead to deformative changes in the disks.

3). Now to the real mystery— how can sitting create higher intradiscal pressure than standing? It's because, when standing, your bodyweight is distributed over a wide variety of structures, including muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Upon sitting down, however, the abdominal "corset" relaxes, which causes a majority of your bodyweight to load the disks. As we mentioned earlier, you probably will not feel any pain at all when this happens. But over the long term, the constant, increased load upon the disks can result in a multitude of problems, from impinged nerve roots to degenerative osteoarthritic changes.

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