Sciatica describes the pain and tingling you get when the root of your sciatic nerve gets pinched, damaged, or irritated. It happens when the vertebrae in your lower back suffer from an abnormality, like spinal narrowing (stenosis), herniated or degenerated discs, injury, infection, a tumor, or inflammation that impinges on the area and affects the nerve.
Although some people feel some pain in their lower back with sciatica, most feel it at some point along the nerve’s path, which travels through the buttocks and down each leg.
Dr. Patrick McNulty, our double board-certified, award-winning orthopedic surgeon here at McNulty Spine in Las Vegas, Nevada, offers cutting-edge diagnosis and treatment for sciatica to get you out of pain fast. While he treats the underlying cause, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your sciatica pain, or at least prevent it from getting worse. Here are some common habits you may not realize are triggering your sciatic pain.
You know that high heels kill your feet, but you may not realize the strain they put on your back. Whether you strap on stilettos or slip into pumps, it affects your posture from the feet up. To keep your balance, your body leans forward to center itself over the middle of the shoe, which forces your pelvis to tilt and your lower back to sway.
Once in a while, this is no problem, especially if you have strong core muscles to support the effort it takes to stay upright. But if you have sciatica, the extra pressure on your spine is enough to inflame those nerve roots and trigger your sciatica.
Most people think of posture as the position of the body in the standing position, but it also refers to how you hold yourself while seated. If you spend a lot of time in a chair, whether you’re typing, driving, or watching TV, you may tend to slump forward. And if you have sciatica, you may do this intentionally, because curving your spine often relieves the pain.
While poor posture generally isn’t a cause of sciatica, it can definitely exacerbate it. When you’re seated or standing, make every effort to keep your spine in a neutral position.
Walking around with a wallet or phone in your back pocket is no big deal most of the time, but it can become a problem if you have sciatica.
Packed back pockets are notorious for pressing on the piriformis muscle that runs through your bottom. And just beneath that muscle lies the sciatic nerve. So, seated just so on top of a wallet, phone, or travel guide on bird watching can compress the nerve and send pain and numbness down your leg.
How you move matters. You should always practice safe lifting techniques, but especially when you have sciatica. If you tend to bend at the waist instead of using your legs and hips, you run the risk of pinching your sciatic nerve. Again, strong core muscles, like obliques, abdominals, and hip flexors make a big difference.
Moving wrong is bad, but not moving at all is even worse. Inactivity weakens your body and puts you at risk for all kinds of injuries and health conditions, including sciatica. It also makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re putting excessive pressure on your sciatic nerve and making the problem worse.
We’re not judging you; we just want to help. As strange as it sounds, super-snug clothing can compress your sciatic nerve. Tight belts and compression shorts are the main culprits, but popular yoga outfits can do it, too. If you’re moving around a lot, you likely won’t have a problem, but if you sit all day in your tight togs, don’t be surprised if you get a sciatica flare-up.
While these tips can help you avoid unnecessary sciatica pain, the best way to get rid of it for good is to come in and see Dr. McNulty to find out exactly what’s causing your sciatica. He can often deliver immediate pain relief with a spinal injection that reduces inflammation and allows you the freedom and ability to participate fully in physical therapy.
Some underlying conditions call for surgical intervention to correct the problem. In that case, you want Dr. McNulty on your team. He has more than 30 years of experience in treating spinal disorders and restoring his patients’ quality of life.
If you have sciatica and are ready to get to the bottom of it, contact us by phone or online today to set up a consultation with Dr. McNulty.