Low back pain affects almost everyone. In fact, 90% of Americans have or had once experienced low back pain symptoms. Although this pain may subside naturally without any treatment after a month or so, without interventions a majority of us continue to have chronic pain. Oftentimes a backache can also radiate down the back of the leg, a condition known as ‘sciatica’.
- Dull ache, at times sharp depending on movement.
- Generally on one side, but can be on both.
- Can have numbness or tingling radiating down to different areas of the leg.
Entrapment and irritation to the sciatic nerve, which passes from the lower spine, down through the buttock region, and continues into the foot. Some people are more predisposed to sciatica if their nerve pierces through the piriformis muscle, making it susceptible to irritation.
- Age. Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs, are the most common causes of sciatica.
- Obesity. By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight can contribute to the spinal changes that trigger back pain and sciatica.
- Occupation. A physically strenuous job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads, or drive a motor vehicle for long periods increases risk.
- Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle affect pelvis and spine positioning.
- Diabetes. This condition, which affects the way your body uses blood sugar, increases your risk of nerve damage.
- Smoking. Amongst other multitude of effects against the body caused by smoking, restricted blood-flow and nerve degeneration from smoking increases risk for sciatica.
In addition to the risk factors above, improper strength training can cause imbalances to our body’s musculature. This can lead to poor mechanical movements around the hips, pelvis or lower back, which in turn produces abnormal strain and stress to the gluteal and hip rotator muscles (e.g. the piriformis).
We all have backaches and most of the time they are self-limited, so when should you seek medical attention?
- If you exhibit any of these “red flags” you should seek medical attention: Loss of bowel or bladder function
- The pain follows a violent injury, such as a traffic accident
- Weakness in your leg(s)
- History of cancer
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
- Pain so bad it wakes you up
Solutions to Help Manage Your Symptoms:
- Over-the-counter medications like Advil or Tylenol to relieve pain and inflammation
- Hot or cold packs
- Topical Ointments like BioFreeze or Truce
- For pain associated with sitting use a lumbar roll to improve sitting posture, or use an ergonomically designed chair.
Here are some tips for good body ergonomics when sitting:
Talk to your workplace about investing in your health and safety with a standing workstation.
- Stretching Exercises or Yoga to improve your hip strength and flexibility
For pictures and instructions on a routine, please visit:
Enter your exercise code to retrieve your Home Exercise Program.
Your exercise code is: 9C7TFMQ
- Change your position frequently
Simply set a timer to get up every 20 minutes from the desk or off the couch. Standing up and moving around for a short moment will help your body maintain better posture, help blood circulation, and also can keep your mind fresh and focused at work.
- Magnesium supplements
Studies show magnesium supplements may promote sciatic nerve regeneration and down-regulates inflammatory response.
- Physical Therapy
Conservative treatment helps over 90% of people suffering from sciatica, such as from physical therapy. Physical Therapists focus on improving the mechanical movements of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex to relieve pressure on the sciatica nerve. Furthermore, since many muscles are impacted and often weakened, PT helps to restore normal muscle function. This balances the spinal, gluteal and leg muscles.
For more information on how you can avoid low back pain and sciatica, call us today to speak with one of our physical therapist experts.
Don’t forget to join us at our Low Back Pain and Sciatica Workshop!
Corey McLeod, Strive! Health and Rehabilitation