Sciatica is a fairly common cause of lower back pain, affecting up to 40% of Americans at some point during their lifetimes. Occurring more commonly with age, sciatica can affect anyone, but it’s especially common during middle age.
Sciatica happens when the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed where it exits the lower spine and luckily is not commonly in need of surgeryt. Injury to the spine can lead to sciatica especially if there is degeneration.
The longest nerve in your body, the sciatic nerve divides into two branches, with a single branch traveling down each leg. That’s why many people with sciatica have aching, burning, or tingling extending into their legs or buttocks in addition to lower back pain.
Plenty of our patients spend hours sitting at a desk at work or school, followed by hours sitting at home while watching TV or surfing the internet. Sitting might seem like a way to relax your back, but it can actually put a lot of strain on your back, particularly your lower back.
Choose an ergonomic chair designed with back support in mind, but getting up and moving around on a regular basis is really important, too.
In fact, plan on taking a little break every half hour or so to stand up, stretch, and walk around a bit. Just a little activity improves circulation and relieves muscle strain that can develop while you’re sitting.
Your core muscles are located in your midsection, and they include your lower back muscles, your buttock muscles, and the muscles in your belly and waist. These muscles work together like a natural girdle to support your back and promote good posture.
When your core muscles are weak, your lower back doesn’t get the support it needs. That means you have an increased risk of painful lower back inflammation, along with a higher likelihood of sciatica.
Restoring core muscle strength can prevent sciatica and relieve back pain in general.
Maintaining a healthy weight benefits your cardiovascular system, but did you know it can also help your spine health?
When you carry extra weight — especially around your belly — those pounds put extra pressure on your spine. Over time, the added pressure can pull your spine out of alignment, increasing your risk of a herniated disc.
Losing extra belly weight decreases the strain on your lower back, relieving muscle strain and helping your spine (and your discs) maintain proper alignment.
Incidentally, many pregnant women develop sciatica in the later stages of their pregnancy, thanks to their increasing belly size. The good news: Those symptoms tend to resolve once the baby is delivered.
Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your spine and for your musculoskeletal system in general. Regular movement helps relieve muscle tension and improve circulation for better muscle function.
To maximize your benefits, opt for gentle exercises that don’t strain your lower back. Walking and swimming are good choices. Incorporate gentle stretches, too. If you notice your pain worsening, discontinue that activity.
Speaking of posture, your mom was right when she nagged you to sit up straight. When you sit up straight and use good posture, your weight is evenly distributed across your muscles and spine.
But when you slump or slouch, the uneven pressure that results starts to pull your spine out of alignment. Because your lower back is very flexible, it winds up taking a lot of that extra strain. Over time, that can lead to disc problems and — you guessed it — painful sciatica.
These tips can reduce your risk of developing sciatica and can relieve existing symptoms. But if you have symptoms, your back is already strained. To avoid causing more damage, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Kasimian so he can customize a treatment plan for you. Our bodies are fortunate and can heal this condition with proper treatment. Surgery is occasionally necessary. An injury can lead to sciatica to return. When surgery is necessary the patient has to feel comfortable with the skill set of the surgeon. Dr. Kasimian and his team review the surgery with the patient as well as the risks, benefits and alternatives to surgery.