Dealing with a painful medical condition can leave you discouraged beyond measure. And in the case of experiencing sciatica pain, it’s no different. With sciatica, it can be challenging to learn how to manage it. And that’s why it’s essential to understand how to improve the condition and not make it worse.
If you’re not sure if you have sciatica, it’s best to first confirm this with a doctor.
But generally speaking, the following are some of the main symptoms of sciatica nerve pain:
- A localized pain in your lower back, spine, and sometimes in your butt and leg
- Sharp and burning pain
- Pain on one side of the body
- Sneezing or coughing causes twinges of pain
- Muscles feel weak
- Numbness and tingling in affected areas
Whether you have sciatica or suspect you may have it, here are some ways you may be making it worse. The good news is by knowing what you’re doing wrong, you can avoid these mistakes moving forward!
What is sciatica?
Back and leg discomfort can result from the disorder known as sciatica. It takes place when pain follows the sciatic nerve’s course. Beginning in the lower spine, this nerve passes through the hip and buttock before descending the back of the leg and ending at the foot.
Sciatica is characterized by nerve discomfort that travels down the back of the leg from the buttock, frequently worsening with sitting, coughing, sneezing, or using the restroom. Moreover, you can experience tingling, pins and needles, numbness, or weakness in your leg, along with lower back pain.
What causes it?
Sciatica is caused by a pinched sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be brought on by spinal injuries, bone spurs, abnormal growths, a constriction of the spinal canal, or tight or bulging buttock muscles.
The most common causes are a herniated disk in the spine or an accumulation of extra bone, often known as bone spurs, on the spinal bones. Occasionally, a tumor may irritate the nerve. Perhaps the nerve may be harmed by a condition like diabetes.
Surprising Ways You Might Be Worsening Your Sciatica
1. Sitting Down for Long Periods
If you spend a large part of your day sitting, you’re putting pressure on your sciatica. Unfortunately, sitting too long results in the sciatic nerve getting compressed.
Do your best to stand throughout the day to provide your body relief. Focusing on putting less pressure on your buttock, lower back, and leg should reduce the pain.
Standing a lot may be uncomfortable, but in time, you may get used to it. For example, if you work at a desk, consider getting a stand-up desk. This type of desk will allow you to switch between sitting and standing throughout the day.
2. Picking Up Heavy Items
When you have sciatica, one of the worst things you can do is pick up heavy objects.
Why is this?
Well, by putting more stress on your spine, your sciatic nerve gets pinched. When the nerve gets pinched, you experience more pain.
So, if you need to lift something, it’s best to ask a friend or family member to help you. Don’t cause yourself unnecessary pain. Even if it’s frustrating, you can’t lift something on your own, it’s not worth it.
3. Bending Forward too Much
Similar to not lifting heavy objects, you shouldn’t bend forward. If you’ve been experiencing pain when bending forward, it’s because your nerve runs over your butt and leg. When you’re stretching your back, butt, and leg, it increases pain in that region.
So, try not to bend forward. Instead, get a bench to sit on so that it’s easier to put on your shoes. And be creative in other ways to eliminate leaning forward as much as possible.
4. Wearing Tight Clothing
Wearing tight-fitting clothing like pants is another action that puts stress on the sciatic nerve. When bending over, you’re stretching your butt, legs, and lower back, which is where the nerve is.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, when the sciatica nerve has extra pressure, it results in additional pain.
Don’t panic though, you may not need to get rid of all your tight clothing. Before donating your clothes, experiment and see which items of clothing trigger pain. You may find that not wearing a belt or wearing stretchy tight clothing works better.
Wearing loose clothing, more specifically your pants should reduce pain. Also, with less compression on the nerve, you should experience minor discomfort.
5. Not Getting Enough Exercise
For your body to stay in good fighting shape, you should be getting enough exercise. That doesn’t mean you have to become an avid jogger, significantly if it hurts your sciatica. But you should get some form of exercise several days a week.
A low-impact exercise, like swimming, can work wonders. A sport like swimming won’t put a lot of pressure on your sciatica. Better yet, it’ll provide much-needed physical activity.
Stretching also builds up body strength and helps you become more flexible. Make time to schedule in stretching every day and you’ll likely experience less aches and pains.
Furthermore, when you’re fit and have a healthy body weight, your sciatica should improve.
What to do if you have sciatic nerve pain?
- Rise up- If you don’t feel up to your usual workout, it’s wise to pay attention to your body’s signals. Too much bed rest can damage your muscles. Try standing up.
- Move- It’s a good idea to stretch, take quick walks, and engage in any other physical activity you feel up to if your discomfort isn’t too intense. Stretching your lower back is especially important because something there can be putting pressure on your sciatic nerve.
- Hot or cold compress- Although being in opposition to one another, hot and cold can both keep you comfortable. For recently sustained injuries, cold therapy is typically the best option. Doctors typically advise transitioning to heat after 72 hours.
- Engage in Physical Therapy- You can improve your posture or build up the muscles that support your lower back with the use of physical therapy. Your therapist will design an exercise regimen for you to follow at home that will include stretching exercises.
- Try Acupuncture- According to some studies, it might be even more effective than conventional back pain relief.
- Have a massage- According to research, massage treatment reduces pain and enhances lower back mobility. Also, it promotes blood flow, which aids in your body’s natural healing process.
- Surgery- Most sciatica sufferers don’t require surgery. But, if you have difficulties walking, lose control of your urine or bowels, or if your pain worsens and other therapies are ineffective, your doctor could advise it.
- Manage stress- Try to manage your stress because your muscles stiffen up as a result of stress, which also makes the pain feel worse.
Associated risks for sciatica
- Your job- Work that involves twisting the back, lifting large objects, or long-distance driving may contribute to sciatica. If your job requires this, be sure to exercise your body.
- Age- The most frequent causes of sciatica are aging-related changes to the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs.
- Weight gain- Obesity puts more strain on the spine. If you feel that you are gaining weight, try to manage this.
- Lengthy sitting- Sciatica is more common in those who spend a lot of time sitting or are inactive than it is in those who are active. Prevent this by being active after long hours of sitting.
- Diabetes- The risk of nerve injury is higher due to this illness, which alters how the body uses blood sugar. Control eating sugary foods if possible.
- Smoking- The nicotine in tobacco can weaken bones, cause injury to the spine, and hasten the degeneration of vertebral disks.
- Osteoarthritis- Your spine may be harmed by osteoarthritis, which also increases the chance of nerve damage.
- Lacking a solid core- Your lower back will have greater support the stronger your core is.
Sciatica can be avoided by taking care of your back, controlling your weight, and generally boosting your physical condition. Home physical therapy, such as exercises that build muscle, can aid in preventing the recurrence of sciatica. Here are some things or activities to help you prevent sciatica:
- Keep a straight posture- Maintaining good posture while you’re standing, lifting things, sitting, or sleeping relieves pressure on your lower back. Adjust your posture if you start to feel stiff or sore.
- Keep a healthy weight- Inflammation and pain are linked to excess weight and a bad diet throughout your body. Manage your weight so you won’t experience pain in your lower back.
- Protect yourself against falls- To lessen your risk of falling, wear comfortable shoes and keep walkways and stairs clear of clutter. Always be careful when you are moving.
- Regular exercise- Work the core muscles to maintain the back strong. The lower back and abdominal muscles required for proper alignment and posture.
- Don’t smoke- The blood flow to bones is decreased by nicotine. It weakens the spine and the vertebral disks, putting extra strain on them and leading to back and spine issues.
- Make proper use of your physique- Rest one foot sometimes on a stool or small box when standing for extended periods of time. Let your legs do the lifting when you are lifting anything heavy. Hold the weight snug against your body.
Now that you know what may be making your sciatica worse, you can work on lessening the pain!
Even if you apply these tips, it’s wise to keep in touch with your doctor. They may recommend a course of treatment that’ll improve your sciatica.
Your doctor may recommend you get surgery. Or, they may suggest for you to try something more natural like a CBD cream. Veriheal has an excellent article about how CBD lotions and creams may help with nerve pain.
So, if you’re experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort, don’t give up hope. There are solutions and ways to overcome sciatica.
Take control of your health, and in time, you should find a way to manage your sciatica pain!