Have you ever had an aching in your lower back that extends down into your buttock or leg? How about back pain that flares up when you lie down or pain that happens after a day of bending or lifting? If you have, then there’s a good chance that what you were experiencing was sciatica, painful symptoms caused by compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve.
The largest nerve in your body, the sciatic nerve exits your lower spine before splitting into two branches, with each branch traveling all the way down a leg. The nerve provides sensation and controls muscle movements and coordination needed for walking and other activities. Often, sciatica happens when a herniated disc presses on the nerve, but other issues can cause nerve compression, too.
At Body Balance Chiropractic & Wellness Center, our team has extensive experience in identifying the cause of sciatica and designing sciatica treatment plans aimed at relieving those painful symptoms. If you have sciatica or you’ve had it in the past, here are six factors that could be playing a role.
Lifting a heavy object puts a lot of strain on your lower back muscles and your spine, too. If you repeatedly lift heavy objects, you’re much more likely to have sciatica symptoms, especially if you don’t use proper lifting technique (use your legs, not your back).
Strained muscles pull on your spine, increasing the likelihood that the sciatic nerve will be pressed or pinched. Plus, muscle strain can lead to inflammation, and even a little swelling can be just enough to press on the nerve where it leaves your spine.
Just like the rest of your body, your spine changes as you get older. Some of those changes can increase your risk of developing painful sciatica.
There’s nothing you can really do to completely prevent the effects of aging. But you can take steps to keep your spine healthy as you get older. Working with a chiropractor is a great way to make sure your back stays strong and healthy throughout every stage of life.
Extra belly fat automatically shifts your body’s center of gravity forward, altering pressure on your lower back and increasing the risk that your spine — and discs — will be pulled out of alignment. The problem is compounded if your core muscles are weak, too.
Most of us think of our bodies as a collection of separate, discrete parts — bones, muscles, organs. But those parts are all interconnected, and that means that when you have pain in one part of your body — like your lower back — it just might be related to a problem with another area.
Sciatica is a really good example. Your lower back (or lumbar spine) is really flexible, and to maintain normal movement, the lumbar area relies on strong muscles to support it. If your core muscles — the muscles around your belly, waist, and lower back — are weak, your lumbar spine isn’t getting the support it needs to function normally.
It might seem like your feet are a long way from your lower back, but believe it or not, the shoes you wear can have a big effect on back pain (and knee and hip pain, too). Wearing shoes that offer inadequate support results in changes in your gait (the way you walk) that in turn shifts the pressure in your lower back. The same is true of high heels that shift your center of gravity forward.
Most smartphones are designed to fit snugly in a pocket — it’s that small size that makes carrying a phone so convenient. The problem is, when you carry a phone in your pocket, that tiny amount of weight is all that’s needed to shift the strain on your spine. Phones aren’t the only culprit: A stuffed wallet has the same effect.
A better solution: Carry your phone, wallet, keys, and other objects in a bag. Just don’t overstuff the bag, because carrying around a heavy briefcase, backpack, purse, or messenger bag can be just as bad as stuffing your pockets, which means you can still wind up with painful sciatica.
Sciatica’s painful symptoms interfere with lots of daily activities — even sleep. But getting treatment isn’t just about finding relief (although that’s certainly important). It’s also about preventing more serious problems, like permanent nerve damage, that can lead to lifelong disability.
If you have sciatica or any type of lower back pain, getting prompt treatment is essential. To learn how our team can help, call 281-890-5599 or book an appointment online at our Houston, Texas, practice today.