Sciatica is the pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness that extends from your lower back down through your buttock and leg when your sciatic nerve is compressed. While in many cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc or another spine condition, your day-to-day habits could be making your symptoms worse and getting in the way of your recovery.
Here are 5 everyday habits that increase sciatica pain:
1. Sedentary lifestyle
If you spend your days sitting in front of a desk or don’t make time to exercise, you could be making your sciatica worse. Sitting for extended periods of time can create muscular imbalances in your posterior chain, which can lead to inflammation that could compress your sciatic nerve.
Additionally, while exercise and physical activity sound like the last thing you want to do when you have sciatica, getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day can actually alleviate some of your pain and help you get stronger and more flexible. You should always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise regime, especially if you have an injury or condition that causes back pain.
2. Carrying items in your back pocket
You might not think about tucking your wallet or cellphone into your back pocket, but this habit could also trigger sciatica pain. If you spend a lot of time sitting with the hard lump of your wallet digging into your piriformis muscle, it could cause inflammation that compresses the sciatic nerve where it extends under the muscle.
3. Hauling around a heavy handbag or shoulder bag
Speaking of wallets and phones, if you carry a large or heavy purse over one shoulder, you put excessive pressure on one side of your back. Heavy handbags can distort your posture and put extra stress on your muscles, leading to inflammation that could compress or irritate your sciatic nerve.
4. Poor footwear choices
You might love the look of an elegant high heel, but heeled shoes push your weight forward, causing you to flex at your hips to stay upright. This movement stresses your hamstrings, which can also cause tension in your buttocks and lower back. Your sciatic nerves extend from your lower back, through your buttocks, and down your legs, and any stress or muscular tension in these areas can contribute to sciatic pain.
5. Tight jeans
Believe it or not, tight jeans or other pants or even underwear can cause further irritation to an already compressed sciatic nerve. If you’re living with sciatica, choose looser pants, skirts, or dresses to stay comfortable.
Other sciatica triggers
Other factors can contribute to your sciatica. If you’re overweight or obese, the added physical stress on your spine from carrying extra pounds make any existing inflammation worse. More weight also contributes to your risk of a back injury that could lead to sciatica.
Stress is another common trigger of sciatica. When you’re mentally or emotionally stressed, you also experience muscle tension and slightly reduced oxygenation, which can trigger your sciatica symptoms.
How can I relieve sciatica?
If you think you have sciatica or are experiencing lower back pain that radiates down one or both of your legs, make an appointment with Ron Ben-Meir, DO, FAAPMR, at Downtown Pain Management. If your sciatica is flaring up, or you want to prevent future issues with it, we’re here to help. Call our office at one of our three convenient New Jersey locations to receive expert treatment for sciatica pain.