Three Ways to Prevent Sciatica

Feb 06

Three Ways to Prevent Sciatica

Sciatic nerve

The term Sciatica often strikes fear in the heart of people suffering from back pain. If you have never heard of sciatica, consider yourself lucky! It’s painful and can be very uncomfortable. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body (it’s the widest and the longest). It starts in the low back and extends down the legs below the knee. Because the sciatic nerve is so long, there are many places where the nerve can become compressed or irritated.

 

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is actually a symptom that results in a sensation of pain, numbness, tingling or muscle weakness along the path of the sciatic nerve. Injury or inflammation in the low back or gluteal area of the body can cause irritation to the sciatic nerve which results in symptoms down the back of the leg or into the foot of the affected side. People in their 30s and 40s have a higher risk of developing sciatica and people who work in professions that require heavy lifting are also at a higher risk of developing sciatica.

Common Causes

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc, but this is by no means the only cause. In fact, something as innocent as a tight piriformis muscle (the muscle that extends from the sacrum across to the hip) can place considerable pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause mild to severe symptoms of sciatica known as piriformis syndrome. The other major culprit of sciatica is an injury to the structures that surround the sciatic nerve. An example would be an injury to one of the joints in the low back or hip region. After the injury occurs, the muscles in the surrounding area become tight to protect the injured area to help with healing. When tissues are injured the body releases chemicals to try and help protect the area, these chemicals can irritate the local nerves. To make matters worse, if the gluteal muscles tighten up as a response to low back injury, the potential to irritate or compress the sciatic nerve becomes a real possibility.

Prevention

There are some people who are prone to developing sciatica symptoms due to genetic and lifestyle factors but there are small changes that you can make to try and prevent sciatica from occurring, or prevent sciatica from coming back again after your symptoms have resolved.

Exercise Regularly — walking, swimming, cycling and just all around good healthy movement will help you keep your joints and muscles free from injury and pain. Think of regular exercises as the anti-aging solution for your body. It keeps your joints well lubricated and flexible while it strengthens your muscles to protect your joints from injury.

Strengthen Your Core — a strong core results in protected joints, proper lifting techniques, and less likelihood of low back and knee injuries. With a strong core you are using the muscles in your body more efficiently, which reduces your risk of injury and helps you recover faster from previous injuries.

The bottom line is get moving, even for just a few minutes at a time.

Take Breaks —Most of us sit more than our bodies can handle. Maybe you commute to work, or you sit in an office all day. All that sitting is not good for your body, but for most of us it’s unavoidable. Take micro-breaks every 30 minutes for about 3-5 minutes. Get out of your chair, go for a short walk around the office, do some light stretching (don’t forget to stretch your legs) if you have a set of stairs you can climb, even better.

One great exercise you can perform is the Stride Stretch on Chair, seen in FPR’s Low Back and Knee Programs.

Stride Stretch with Chair

Treating Sciatica

Because there are so many different reasons why sciatica can occur, treatment ranges from taking over-the-counter painkillers to surgery. For the majority of people suffering with sciatica, symptoms generally get significantly better after 8 weeks. Movement is a very important part of treatment; in fact the sooner you start moving the better your recovery.

Related Articles:

Sciatica: What Is It and How Do You Treat It?

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