Lower back pain among Americans is extremely common, with 80% of adults reporting some experience with the issue. While lower back pain can stem from many different conditions, one of the more common is sciatica, which is a problem that comes with a considerable amount of pain.
At Magnolia Medical Center, our team of experienced medical professionals specializes in back pain, and we routinely help our patients navigate the unique problems that come with sciatica. While we have effective treatments for sciatica, we believe that prevention is key, which is why we’ve pulled together a list of the most common risk factors that you can address.
Sciatica at a glance
Before we get into some of the larger risk factors, let’s quickly review what happens when you develop sciatica. Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body, and it starts in your lower back and branches out and travels down your buttocks and the backs of both legs.
Sciatica develops when this nerve is pinched or compressed in your lower back, which can lead to both local pain and pain that radiates down one or both of your legs, even as far as your foot. In addition to the aching or burning pain, you may feel numbness or tingling in your lower extremities.
There are many conditions that make you more susceptible to sciatica, including aging and age-related problems like degenerative disc disease. For this blog, however, we’re going to concentrate on three factors that are well within your control to change: weight, posture, and movement.
1. A matter of weight
If you’re among the two-thirds of Americans who are either overweight or obese, the extra burden on your spine can lead to sciatica. Your spine includes 24 moveable vertebrae which are separated by 23 discs. In most cases of sciatica, one of your discs herniates or ruptures, which can irritate the nerve roots associated with your sciatic nerve.
When you carry extra weight, you compress your discs, making them more vulnerable to rupture. As well, if you’re older, being overweight can accelerate conditions like degenerative disc disease or arthritis.
2. A matter of posture
Another risk factor for developing sciatica is poor posture, especially if you spend long hours at a desk. Humans weren’t designed for prolonged sitting and the extra stress this places on your lower back can leave you more susceptible to sciatica.
This risk factor is one that’s fairly easy to mitigate if you take some key steps, such as:
- Getting up from your chair frequently and walking around
- Stretching your back throughout the day (simply touching your toes does the trick)
- Ensuring that your posture is good — back straight, both feet on the floor
We understand that there’s little to be done about the time you need to spend in a seated position, but you can offset the effects using the simple techniques we outlined above.
3. A matter of moving
Another major contributor to sciatica is the increasingly sedentary lifestyle we now lead. When you don’t get up and move, your core muscles suffer — and these muscles go a long way toward supporting your lower back.
By incorporating core exercises into your daily routine, you can beef up the core muscles that surround your spine and take the pressure off of your already hard-working discs. By core muscles, we mean the muscles in your lower back and in your abdomen.
If you’d like to learn more about what factors may place you more at risk for sciatica and what we can do about them, please contact our office in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to set up an appointment with one of our back pain specialists. You can call us or use the online booking tool while you’re here on the website.