A lot of issues lead to back pain, and one of the most common ones is sciatica. This condition happens when your sciatic nerve becomes irritated or inflamed, and it often causes pain, numbness, and tingling in your low back and legs.
If you have sciatica, you know about the pain. What you may not realize is that certain habits can make the condition much worse.
The team at Southern Pain Specialists in Birmingham, Alabama, offers professional and efficient pain relief when you have pain from sciatica. Dr. Kenneth Varley is our pain management specialist, and he can help you finally get rid of your back pain and sciatica with state-of-the-art treatments.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition that involves your sciatic nerve. This nerve is the biggest in your body — located in your lower back and buttocks, it also runs down your leg to below the knee.
Sciatica occurs when your nerve becomes injured due to irritation or compression. Actual injury to your sciatic nerve is uncommon, but the term refers to any type of nerve pain in your lower back and legs.
When this happens, you often feel pain in both your lower back and down one leg. There are many causes of sciatica, which include:
Sciatica often causes electric-like shooting pain in your leg, but it’s also sometimes described as sharp or stabbing pain. Patients often find the pain to be worse in their legs than their back, and it usually comes and goes. Sometimes, certain habits play into the recurrence of your symptoms.
Habits that exacerbate sciatica symptoms
Many little habits you have don’t necessarily interfere with your life. However, if you’re one of the many people who suffer from sciatic nerve pain, those habits could be causing some of your discomfort. Learning what habits trigger sciatica helps you stay mobile and pain-free.
Lifting too much
When you’re having a bout of sciatic pain, it’s important not to lift heavy objects because it makes your symptoms worse. Generally, you want to restrict your lifting to less than 15 pounds, and make sure you’re not bending over to pick things up.
Bending forward often
Bending forward or bending over to get something isn’t a good idea when you have sciatica. Constant bending irritates your back muscles and the sciatic nerve, making your pain worse. It’s important to use your legs and squat down to pick something up instead of leaning forward at your waist.
Wearing tight clothes
Overly tight pants or underwear might bring on sciatic pain. If your pants are so tight that the waistband is digging into your back, it can irritate the nerve and cause pain and other symptoms.
Sitting for long periods
When you have sciatic pain, you should avoid sitting for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Sitting too long aggravates the nerve and other structures in your back, leading to pain and stiffness. When you do sit down, make sure you’re using a supportive chair.
Carrying too much in your pockets
Carrying your wallet or keys in your back pocket isn’t inherently bad — unless you have sciatica. When you overload your back pockets, it puts pressure on a small muscle, called the piriformis muscle. The sciatic nerve lies under this muscle, and you exert pressure on it when you sit on your full pockets.
Being overweight isn’t a habit, but it does contribute to the symptoms of sciatica. The excess weight puts pressure on your joints and nerves. Just by losing a few pounds, you reduce your risk of a sciatica flare-up and other back pain.
When to see a doctor for sciatic pain
Sciatica normally goes away on its own with home care and rest. Ice, heat, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and light stretching are the best home therapies for your pain.
It may take a few days for your symptoms to let up, but the pain should subside within a week or so. However, if your pain continues, you should seek treatment with our team.
When your sciatic nerve pain is persistent and you can’t get relief from home therapies, Dr. Varley offers effective treatments in our office. These include prescription medications and steroid injections. He also may recommend physical therapy.
These treatments are usually sufficient in relieving your pain and getting you back to your normal level of activity. If more aggressive measures are needed, Dr. Varley and his team also offer radiofrequency ablation and spinal cord stimulation to address your pain.