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5 Things That Can Cause Discomfort When Sitting
When getting off your feet hurts more than standing, look to these common causes—and ways to find relief.
Sitting is supposed to bring relief after time on your feet, but certain conditions can make it feel just as uncomfortable as standing. Switching to a standing workstation is one thing, but last we heard, no one was making standing cars. To help you take a seat without wincing, we consulted the experts for common reasons it might hurt to sit down, as well as the solutions for these varied conditions. As always, if you’re still unsure, visit your doctor to get down to the, well, bottom of things.
The Problem: Poor Posture
Let’s start with the easy one. When you sit in a way that throws the natural s-curve of your spine out of alignment, it can easily lead to back pain, says Dr. Kaliq Chang, a pain management specialist at the Atlantic Spine Center in West Orange, NJ. “We all know what bad posture is when sitting,” he says. “Your pelvis is rolled forward, back is slouched—and it misaligns your lower back.” Take a look at yourself right now: are you slumping?
“Sit in the most natural position, where the pelvis is balanced underneath the spine,” Dr. Chang advises. Additionally, he notes, “Lumbar support can help roll the lower back, and keep it from pushing backwards into slouch.” Be mindful of how you’re sitting too, and try some of these simple habits to improve your posture.
The Problem: Hemorrhoids
Yes, it’s much less embarrassing to talk about the lower back than it is to discuss hemorrhoids, but the fact is, about 50 percent of Americans develop hemorrhoids by age 50 (and others of us get them later in life), according to the National Institutes of Health. Hemorrhoids are “simple swollen veins in the rectal area,” explains Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist and clinical associate professor at NYU Langone Health. “The good news is, the veins never become dangerous or cancerous, but they can be annoying and painful.” She explains that there are many reasons people get hemorrhoids—including straining from constipation, frequent cycling (so much time in that seat!), and pregnancy, for starters—but it all boils down to one thing: “Anything that puts pressure on those veins can cause them to swell,” Dr. Rajapaksa says.
Preventing constipation is mainstay treatment, Dr. Rajapaksa says (since that will reduce straining and pressure). She suggests upping your fiber intake (through diet or supplements) and drinking more water to keep your digestive system running smoothly. There are also OTC products that can soothe and temporarily shrink hemorrhoids. Consider treating with a cream like Preparation H, which can relieve symptoms like pain, burning, and itching, as well as help shrink and protect irritated tissue.
The Problem: Staring at a Computer Screen All Day
It’s not so much the staring itself as the position of the screen and the keyboard relative to your head, neck, and arms, Dr. Chang says. “If you’re looking down or pushing your head forward and down,” he says, “It creates an unnatural position that can stress the discs in neck.”
“The Ideal height is one where when you are looking at monitor, your shoulders aren’t hunched forward, [and you’re] not stooping your neck forward to look at screen,” Dr. Chang says. Keep shoulders back and elbows on the table so that you’re not reaching up or bending down to reach the keyboard. And whenever you’re sitting, he says, “It’s best to get up at least every half hour and walk around for a few minutes.” (This is good for your eyes, too.) Try setting an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to get up.
The Problem: an Abscess
It’s possible to get a pimple-like abscess from shaving, waxing, or even exercising, says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse of the Dermatology Institute and Skin Care Center in Los Angeles. All of those activities create friction and irritation of the many hair follicles down below, and can lead to pain when sitting. “When inflammation happens from those things, you can develop a cyst,” Dr. Shainhouse says.
You’ll need a doctor’s appointment to treat this one. “Depending on where it is and how big it is, your doctor can lance it, or prescribe cortisone and/or an antibiotic,” Dr. Shainhouse says.
The Problem: Bruised Tailbone
The coccyx—that vulnerable bone at the base of your spine, just above your buttocks—doesn’t just bruise itself. “We don’t see it spontaneously,” Dr. Chang says. “It’s usually because someone fell on their butt.” When you bruise it, you’ll know it, he says, because you will be very sore. “Any sitting would hurt.”
“Buying a donut seat is usually the way to go,” Dr. Chang says. The shape of the donut seat will keep your body weight off your tailbone when you’re seated. And if you want to decorate yours to literally look like a donut, we think that’s a great idea.
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