When the nerve in your lower back called the sciatic nerve is compressed or damaged, it sends pain through your buttocks and down your leg. It’s usually the result of a herniated disc or bone spur in your spine, or spinal stenosis, a condition that causes your spinal column to narrow and press on nerves.
Dinesh Yanamadula, MD, at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute can help you steer clear of risk factors for sciatica to give you the best chance of staying pain-free. If you already have sciatica, he can help you manage the pain and solve the underlying issues to stop the problem for good. Here are the three main risk factors for sciatica.
There’s no escaping the march of time. And as you age, your body naturally shows signs of wear-and-tear. But if you take good care of yourself, your body stands a better chance of weathering the aging process without breaking down.
The discs in your spine begin to degenerate little by little starting at age 30, even in healthy people, and your spinal column begins to narrow when you turn 50. As arthritis naturally sets in, these age-related conditions all threaten to crowd, cramp, and crimp your nerves.
Anything that puts pressure on your spine
Because sciatica is the result of compressed nerves in your spine, anything that adds to that pressure puts you at risk.
Jobs that make you sit all day
Whether you sit at a desk or in the driver’s seat, sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause sciatica pain. This can even happen if you’re active most days and then have an unusual day where you sit too long, such as an all-day conference or a long plane trip.
Twisting and lifting
The way you lift things, especially heavy things, off the ground can trigger sciatica. If you have a job that calls for you to move boxes or other heavy items, make sure you don’t twist at the same time. Follow safe lifting practices like:
- Using your legs, not your back
- Avoiding the bend-and-twist move
- Keeping your spine straight
- Keeping the load close to your body
A sedentary lifestyle
It’s one thing to have a job that requires you to sit too much, but beyond the office, you have a choice. Sitting at home staring at the TV or a computer, or reading for hours and hours is just as bad for you. Making regular exercise part of your lifestyle is one of the best things you can do to avoid sciatica.
Weighing too much
You may be a little overweight or a lot, but either way, those extra pounds put more pressure on your spine and add to the changes to your discs that trigger sciatica. Losing weight can relieve that pressure and may stop your pain.
Diabetes is one of the most common causes of sciatica because one of the primary symptoms of the disease is nerve damage. If you’re diabetic, your body doesn’t process glucose the way it should and you end up with high blood sugar. High blood sugar wreaks havoc on nerves, including your sciatic nerve.
Some types of diabetes are preventable. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and monitoring your health if you happen to belong to a high-risk group can potentially prevent diabetes and save you from the pain of sciatica.
Other causes of sciatica
Those are the top three risk factors for sciatica, but not the only causes. Injuries that affect your spine can cause it as well.
If you walk and run a lot, you may experience sciatica. You have a muscle called the piriformis deep in your buttocks. When you walk, jog, and run, that muscle contracts. Over time, it may become too tight and release, which compresses your sciatic nerve and, voila, sciatica.
Pregnancy is another cause of sciatica. Hormones may have something to do with it, but more often, it’s the position of the baby that puts pressure on the nerve and sends pain down your body.
Treatment for sciatica
At Princeton Pain & Spine Institute, we specialize in stopping your pain fast. In many cases, sciatica goes away on its own, depending on the cause. But if your pain is caused by a condition that doesn’t resolve quickly, Dr. Yanamadula can offer treatments to bring you relief while we deal with the underlying problem.
From stretching and physical therapy to over-the-counter and prescription medications to epidural steroid injections, he can customize a treatment plan designed specifically for your unique symptoms.
Whether you have sciatica and are looking for pain relief or you believe you’re at risk for sciatica and want to avoid the pain altogether, Dr. Yanamadula can help. Give us a call to schedule an appointment or request one online.