Feel that shooting pain starting in your lower back and descending through your bottom and down the back of your leg, even all the way to your foot? That’s called sciatica, and as much as 40% of the population will experience it at some point in their lives.
Sciatica is different than just straining your back because you picked up something heavy. It’s nerve pain that occurs when one of your sciatic nerves gets pinched or irritated. Your sciatic nerves are the largest nerves in your body - each about as big as your little finger. They originate in your lower back and travel through your buttocks, down the back of each leg, and through the soles of your feet to your big toes.
When the nerves are damaged, the pain can strike anywhere along this path. It can be a dull soreness, tingling, or even shooting, stabbing pain. Episodes can last anywhere from a few hours to months of on-and-off pain.
Treatment options include rest, anti-inflammatories, ice, and steroid injections. The condition usually goes away on its own, but in some cases, surgery is necessary. The best way to minimize your pain from sciatica and prevent it from occurring in the first place is to make several sustainable lifestyle changes, such as the following:
Lifestyle changes to prevent sciatica
Exercise regularly. A good, consistent exercise routine helps build strength in your back, enables you to lose weight (see below), helps you manage stress, and gives you more energy. All of these factors are vital in fighting sciatica. Make sure your routine includes exercises that stretch and strengthen your abdominal and back muscles, along with balancing techniques that build up your core trunk muscles. This kind of strength will help when the pain strikes in your lower back.
Lose weight. Extra pounds put extra pressure on your spinal muscles and discs. To ease the pressure on your spine, follow a diet and exercise program that helps you lose weight. Don’t fall for extreme promises that are too good to be true. Look for steady, consistent programs that address both nutrition and fitness and allow you to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
Use good posture. Try to stand and sit straight up. Slumping and slouching can put more pressure on your lower back. You should also avoid standing or sitting for long periods at a time. If you do have to sit, choose a chair with good lumbar support. If standing is necessary, put a low footstool in front of you and alternate placing each foot on it for a few minutes. This will help take some of the pressure off your back.
Manage stress. When you are stressed, your muscles tend to clench and tighten. If you feel stress building, take a few minutes to practice some relaxation, breathing, or meditation techniques.
Don’t smoke. If you are a smoker, find a way to quit. Smoking may contribute to the degeneration of discs in your spine, plus you risk injuring your back if you have a coughing attack. Smoking can also have a negative effect on your healing process.
If you are dealing with sciatica and would like to see a doctor, call Southern Pain Specialists or book an appointment online. Dr. Kenneth Varley will be glad to meet with you, evaluate your condition, and help you put together an effective treatment plan that will make a difference in your life.