If you have sciatica, you’re probably no stranger to burning and sharp pain in your bottom, legs, and lower back. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc, which occurs when one of the cushions between the backbones slips out of place and irritates the nearby sciatic nerve.
Fortunately, you can avoid herniated discs and sciatica by making a few lifestyle changes. Of course, aging and genetics play a role, but you can take many steps to improve your pain level from the comfort of your home.
We asked Dr. Rudy Malayil, our expert at Pain Management 360, located in Huntington and Hurricance, West Virginia, to share some of the lifestyle changes that can reduce sciatica pain.
The nicotine in cigarettes constricts your blood vessels, which makes it hard for tissues all over your body to get nutrients and oxygen from your blood. Consequently, the muscles and bones of your spine weaken over time, increasing your risk for sciatica pain.
When you sit for prolonged periods, your lower back spine and muscles put more pressure on your sciatic nerve. You can fix this by alternating between sitting and using a standing desk.
The muscles behind your lower back and abdomen support your spine. When these weaken, you’re more likely to develop poor spinal stability, herniated discs, and an irritated sciatic nerve.
Engaging in resistance training and eating a protein-rich diet can help you build up the muscles in your lower back.
Carrying a few extra pounds, especially around your midsection, increases your risk for sciatica flare-ups, as the spine and the muscles in the back have to carry a heavier load.
A study examining one month of caloric restriction for overweight patients suffering from chronic sciatica showed that weight loss decreased pain and disability.
Not all sciatica cases can be managed with lifestyle changes. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, Dr. Malayil may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or muscle relaxants. For long-term relief, he may recommend steroid injections to reduce inflammation around your sciatic nerve.
You can expect the effects of the injections to last about two months. If your sciatic nerve is severely compressed or irritated — causing numbness, chronic pain, and incontinence — Dr. Malayil may decompress the nerve surgically.
If your pain lasts longer than a week, or if your pain impairs function or worsens, contact us to schedule an appointment.