Sciatica is often labeled as “back pain,” but there is more to sciatica than back pain. Sciatica refers to the inflammation of the sciatic nerve. When your sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, you might feel back pain, yes. But in addition to lower back pain, you might also feel a sharp, shooting pain that runs from your lower back to your buttocks and down through your leg.
About 40% of individuals experience sciatica at some point. There are many conditions — like piriformis syndrome and herniated discs — that can lead to the compression of your sciatic nerves.
At Elite Integrative Medical, our team of providers understands how sciatica can quickly impact the quality of your life, and that’s why we work hard to pinpoint the root cause of your sciatica so you can get relief. Whether you need traction, spinal manipulation or another treatment, we can help you get back on your feet.
In addition to managing underlying conditions, you can do other things to help reduce the discomfort associated with sciatica. Take a moment to explore the six factors that contribute to sciatica.
1. Prolonged sitting
If you sit for prolonged periods, you’re more at risk for developing sciatica. That’s because sitting can put more pressure on your spine, and if you already have a bulging disc, it can add to your pain. If you sit for a large portion of the day, keep these tips in mind:
- Use a lumbar pillow to support your back’s natural curve
- Get up and take regular breaks every hour
- Stretch regularly
- Don’t cross your legs when you sit
- Don’t spread your legs either (This can put too much pressure on your piriformis muscle.)
Always practice good posture when sitting. Keep your knees bent at 90-degree angles, and place your feet flat on the floor in front of you.
2. Heavy exertion
You might not think of your core muscles as helping to prevent back pain, but the reality is that you need a strong core. Why? Weak core muscles mean that your spine must carry the load on its own. That leaves you more likely to herniate a disc, which is a risk factor for sciatica.
On the flip side, having a strong core means that your core and your back share the load when lifting, a much safer scenario.
To prevent back pain and sciatica, always practice safe lifting techniques and never twist while lifting.
Although you can’t stop the clock, it’s important to recognize aging as a contributing factor to sciatica. As you age, your body is naturally more likely to experience changes in the spine. This can include arthritis, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, and herniated discs. All of these changes in the spine can increase the risk of sciatica.
4. Weight gain
Being overweight isn’t just a vanity issue — it can contribute to sciatica. When you’re over your ideal weight, it places strain on multiple systems in your body, including your spine. When your spine is strained, it increases the risk of developing the spine issues that can eventually lead to sciatica.
5. Keeping your phone in your back pocket
This might seem like an unusual contributing factor, but keeping bulky items — like a phone or wallet — in your back pocket can put pressure on your piriformis muscle. Remember: Your sciatic nerve is under your piriformis muscle, so when this muscle is compressed, it can irritate your nerves and trigger sciatica.
Tip: Sitting or driving with a wallet in your back pocket can be especially irritating. Consider moving your wallet to a different pocket, a briefcase, or suit jacket pocket.
6. Wearing the wrong shoes
Yes, even your shoes impact your back! High heels, in particular, force your body to lean forward. To balance yourself, your body responds by leaning back and stretching the hips. Flexing your hips impacts your hamstrings, and stretched out hamstrings can quickly trigger sciatica
Choose more supportive shoes with a lower heel. Not only can this reduce your chance of triggering sciatica, but it can also prevent other spine and foot problems too. Custom orthotics that fit into patients’ shoes are also extremely helpful. We create orthotics using the latest 3D laser scanner.
Not sure what’s contributing to your sciatica? Sometimes switching your shoes and practicing good posture while sitting isn’t enough to eliminate sciatica. Our providers at Elite Integrative Medical are experienced in diagnosing and treating sciatica. Whether you need rehabilitation, chiropractic care, or integrative medicine techniques, we can get you started on the path to relief.
Don’t let your sciatica keep you from living the life you want. Schedule an appointment at our Beverly Hills, California, clinic by calling 310-626-1399. You can also request an appointment online, or send a message to the team here on our website.