There are dozens of ways you can develop lower back pain, but one of the more distinctive, and uncomfortable, is sciatica. Since it involves the largest nerve in your body — your sciatic nerve — it makes sense that the side effects of this condition are less than subtle.
Whether or not you’ve had sciatica, which affects between 10% and 40% of people at some point in their lives, finding ways to prevent the back problem is a good idea.
To help, the team of orthopaedic and spine health experts here at Western Orthopaedics wants to focus on risk factors for sciatica, because addressing these risks is one of the best means of prevention.
A brief word about sciatica
To better understand why some conditions place you at more risk of developing sciatica, it’s helpful to quickly review the condition.
As we mentioned, your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body, and it’s formed by both motor and sensory fibers from spinal nerves that exit your spine from your L4 to S3 vertebrae. This nerve splits into two segments in your lower back, and each segment travels down into each of your buttocks, legs, and feet.
Sciatica occurs when something compresses this nerve in your lower back, which can lead to:
These symptoms often travel from your low back and down into one side of your buttocks and into one leg.
Common risks for sciatica
When it comes to determining your risks for sciatica, the list includes factors you can change and those you cannot. For example, sciatica tends to strike around (and after) the age of 40, and this is one factor that’s far outside your control to change.
So, for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to focus on those factors that you can influence, which include:
If you’re carrying extra pounds, you can speed up degenerative changes in your spine that lead to nerve compression issues like sciatica.
Standing or sitting for long periods
If you stand or sit for too long, you place more pressure on your lumbar spine, which leaves you more vulnerable to sciatica.
While related to sitting or standing, posture is a bit different. If you routinely slouch or hunch, whether you’re sitting or standing, you’re throwing your spine out of a healthy, neutral position.
Weak core and physical inactivity
If the muscles that support your spine, especially those in your lower back, are weak, you’re more at risk for conditions like sciatica.
As you can see, there are steps you can take to address each of these risk factors for sciatica. Making the proposition even more enticing is that losing weight and improving the support of your spine will deliver myriad benefits for your health that extend beyond your spine.
If you’d like a more personalized evaluation of your risks for sciatica, we invite you to contact one of our offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to schedule an appointment.