If you’ve ever experienced sciatica, you know it’s different from other back pain. Instead of a throbbing or piercing discomfort in one area, it’s more like a sharp shooting pain sometimes accompanied by tingling, numbness, or weakness that starts in the lower back and radiates through the buttocks and down the back of your leg.
That’s because the sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body, and the pain you’re feeling is caused by a compressed (or pinched) nerve usually caused by a herniated or degenerative spinal disc, spinal stenosis (the natural wear and tear of vertebrae and narrowing of the spinal canal), or another injury or infection.
You might be surprised to learn that some of the triggers of sciatic pain are related to your lifestyle, and that limiting or eliminating some of these habits and behaviors could reduce your incidence of sciatic flare-ups. Here are five ways you may be unknowingly triggering your sciatica:
· High heels and shoes that aren’t cushioned – Wearing high-heel shoes pitches your body weight forward, forcing you to flex forward at the hips in order to stay upright. This sort of pelvic movement stretches the hamstring muscles in your back alongside your sciatic nerve, possibly stretching and irritating it as well. In addition, high heels and shoes without cushioned insoles may transfer the impact of your steps up your legs to your back and hips.
· “Back pocket” sciatica – Sitting for extended periods of time with your wallet, keys, cell phone, or any hard object in your back pocket has been known to aggravate the piriformis muscle, under which the sciatic nerve runs. This can cause pressure on the nerve and ensuing pain. The obvious solution is to tuck your wallet in your front pocket or jacket, or to use a money clip.
· Stress – Some researchers believe that various forms of back pain – including sciatica – can be triggered by emotional anxiety. Their explanation is that in times of stress, the brain deprives the nerves in the lower back of oxygen, resulting in symptoms such as leg pain, weakness, and other electrical sensation.
· Tight-fitting clothing – Many sciatica sufferers vouch for the notion that tight blue jeans and underwear with tight elastic bands can place sufficient pressure on the sciatic nerve to trigger a flare-up. If true, loose-fitting clothes should provide relief.
· Obesity or Excessive Weight – Studies have shown that the more you weigh, the more likely you will put pressure on your sciatic nerve. Keeping your weight under control will go a long way toeliminating the risk of sciatic nerve damage.
With the right treatment program, a good bit of movement and a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to make sciatica pain an afterthought. Chronic back pain and sciatica pain are treatable conditions, no matter how difficult it can be at times. Instead of living with the pain, consult with an orthopedic pain specialist today. Call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to find out what can be done to relieve your pain and get you back to leading an active and rewarding life.