Four out of every 10 people experience sciatica at some point in their lives. Sciatica pain varies, but it can take up to six weeks to resolve. In some cases, it becomes a chronic pain condition.
At Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center in Pittsburgh, McKees Rocks, and Washington, Pennsylvania, our spine and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jocelyn Idema, takes a nonsurgical approach to sciatica pain whenever possible.
What can you do to avoid sciatica pain? Plenty. Here, we want to share some of our best lifestyle tips.
We know that when you’re in pain the only thing you want to do is to lie still until the pain goes away. But bed rest isn't the best remedy for sciatica pain or almost any other type of pain condition.
Lack of physical activity may worsen your pain. Prolonged bed rest weakens your back muscles and causes your joints to stiffen. You don’t need to go out and run a marathon when you have sciatica, but we do encourage you to remain as active as possible, so your pain improves faster (or at least doesn’t get worse).
You’re at greater risk of developing sciatica if you carry excess body weight. Your spine supports most of your upper body weight. The more weight your spine has to carry, the more likely you are to have spine problems — herniated disc or degenerative disc disease (DDD) — that lead to sciatica pain.
Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on your spine and your risk of sciatica.
Your core muscles are the abdominal and back muscles that help your spine support your body weight. If your core muscles are strong, they can take on more of the weight of your upper body, reducing stress on the spine.
Crunches, planks, and bridges are examples of exercises that can improve core muscle strength.
Smoking is bad for every cell, tissue, and organ in your body, including your spine. Nicotine decreases circulation to the bones, weakening them and the intervertebral discs that separate each bone. These structural changes that occur when you smoke place more stress on the spine, putting you at greater risk of developing spine-related pain conditions like sciatica.
The curves in your spine help evenly distribute the weight of your body, so no single weight-bearing joint is carrying more than it can handle. Slouching when you sit and stooping when you walk places unnecessary pressure on your lower back.
When sitting or standing, be mindful of how you position your body. With good posture your eyes look forward, your back is straight, your shoulders are back, and your abdominal muscles are pulled in.
To avoid sciatica pain, you need to take steps to protect your back. A bad fall or poor lifting can lead to an injury that may cause sciatica. Wear supportive shoes, keep your walkway clear, and lift with your legs not your back.
Even if you follow all the rules to protect your back, you may not be able to fully prevent sciatica pain.
If you’re struggling with back pain and need relief, schedule an appointment with our spine specialist by calling the office or requesting an appointment online today. We also welcome walk-ins through our ortho ASAP quick care service.