How to Prevent Sciatica

How to Prevent Sciatica

Approximately 80% of adults experience back pain during their lives. Sciatica is a form that impacts up to 40% of people and becomes more common as we age. Located in the lower back, the sciatic nerve is the largest in the body. What are the best ways to prevent sciatica?

Understanding Sciatica

Pressure on the sciatic nerve is often the result of the rupturing of a disc in the spine that quickly creates inflammation. Sciatic nerve pain commonly causes pain that extends to the legs known as radiculopathy. When the pain is felt mainly in the legs it is usually caused by a pinched nerve.

William Abdu, MD, at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, says that leg pain is worse than the pain in the back region in many cases. This can originate from nerve roots in the lower back on both sides of the spinal column.

Best Ways to Prevent Sciatica

Certain causes of sciatica results from aging, often caused by degenerative disc disease.  The problem may also result from increases in body weight such as during pregnancy. In many cases, the pain associated with the sciatic nerve is the result of an accident. This may include a fall or an automobile collision.

Proper Lifting

When lifting objects the back must remain straight. Even lifting lighter items can create problems. The hips and legs, rather than the back, should be used and the object should be held against the chest.

Although disc degeneration tends to occur as we age, it may be worsened by smoking cigarettes and a lack of exercise. The muscles of the abdomen and the back provide support for the spine and a lack of activity may weaken them.

People with poor posture also create unnecessary pressure within their lower back region. Proper posture is important when sitting for long periods, such as many people do at work. You should choose a chair that provides some support for the lower back and you may benefit from armrests.

Good posture is also important when standing, particularly for longer periods. Consider asking for help before lifting heavier objects. If you are going to be standing for long periods it is best to give your legs a rest.

The Importance of Movement and Activity

Failing to exercise regularly can contribute to sciatica. When our bodies are stagnant, there is less healthy blood flow. The movement of blood is critical to preventing inflammation in the lower back area. Those who are already struggling with back pain should consider low impact exercises such as swimming and also should remember to stretch.

Your Occupation and Sciatica

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that more than 800,000 people experience work-related back problems annually. Those whose work involves lifting, bending and twisting tend to experience back pain. Many workers feel they cannot take time off and choose to “work through” back pain instead of seeking medical attention.

Prolonged pressure and straining can compound the physical problems over time. Some of the types of workers that commonly experience problems with sciatica include the following:

  • Construction workers: Up to 30% of those working in construction miss time resulting from neck and/or back sprains or strains. They tend to do repetitive movements, carry objects, and may be at-risk for falls.
  • Workers in nursing homes: These individuals may be assisting patients with movement. Examples include moving people from bed or assisting them with bathing.
  • Warehouse employees: These individuals may be involved with shipping and receiving of heavy items.
  • Surgeons and dentists: May be required to stand or remain in awkward positions for extended periods.
  • Lawn and garden workers: These workers may be involved in a host of physical activity that can strain the back. Common examples include digging, lifting, and pruning.
  • Retail employees: Those working in checkout lines may stand for long periods. They may also be lifting and moving objects such as when stocking or bagging items.
  • Other occupations that can create back problems include drivers, assembly workers, cleaners, and mechanics. 

Sciatica and Sleeping

Those with sciatica generally should sleep on their backs. Many individuals benefit from positioning pillows under or between their knees.

Professionals That Treat Sciatica

Most people will initially visit their primary care physician for a diagnosis. The doctor may conduct diagnostics including X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. Often the doctor will refer the patient to a specialist or physical therapy. Other professionals that commonly treat back problems include orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physiatrists, and pain management specialists.

Effective Management and Treatment of Sciatica in Mesa, AZ

Are you struggling with pain and discomfort associated with sciatica? The team of medical professionals at the Arizona Pain and Spine Institute delivers results for patients struggling with many types of painful conditions. We encourage you to contact us today for an appointment at (480) 986-7246.