New year, new you, right? Many people choose the start of a new year to set new goals, like losing weight.
Losing even a small amount of weight offers many benefits, like lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and it eases joint and back pain. Weight loss is also an effective nonsurgical treatment for chronic sciatica, according to a recent study published in Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi and Dr. Matthew Roh, our compassionate doctors at Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland, provide many treatments and therapies to ease painful conditions like sciatica. But you can take charge of your health and your pain by creating healthy lifestyle habits.
Here, we explain the connection between sciatica and weight and how losing weight can help relieve your pain.
Yes, sciatica may cause lower back pain, but it’s not a back pain condition. Sciatica is a type of nerve pain generated from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Your sciatic nerve is a pencil-thin nerve made up of several nerve roots that exit from your lumbar and sacral spine, join together in your buttocks, and travel down the back of your leg on both sides of your body ― like a horseshoe.
Your sciatic nerve is the main sensory and motor nerve for the lower part of your body. Though compression or irritation of your sciatic nerve may occur anywhere the nerve travels, it most often happens at the lumbar spine.
Conditions like a herniated disc, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), bone spurs, or osteoarthritis in this part of the spine may irritate the sciatic nerve root, causing pain symptoms.
Your spine is made up of three sections. The cervical spine (neck) is the most flexible part and supports the weight and movement of your head. The thoracic spine (middle back) connects your spine to your ribs and curves in such a way to help distribute body weight.
The lumbar spine (lower back) supports the cervical and thoracic sections of your spine, as well as most of your upper body weight. Because of the amount of stress placed on your lumbar spine, it’s a common source of injuries and degenerative conditions that lead to back pain.
Carrying extra weight increases the stress on this part of the spine, speeding up the degenerative changes that cause back pain and conditions like sciatica, such as disc herniation or osteoarthritis.
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for sciatica. Inactivity and weak core muscles (abdominal muscles) are also risk factors.
Sciatica usually goes away within a few weeks. To ease pain, you may take over-the-counter pain medication, apply heat and ice, and engage in gentle stretching exercises. Movement is an important part of the healing process for sciatica.
However, sciatica can turn into a chronic, recurring problem. For our patients with ongoing or severe sciatica, we recommend physical therapy and epidural injections.
Because weight places extra stress on your lumbar spine, losing weight not only eases your sciatica pain, but it also may prevent it from turning into a chronic pain condition. In fact, losing weight is an effective treatment for people who have both chronic sciatica and obesity, easing pain and improving quality life — and potentially preventing the need for more invasive treatments like spine surgery.
Making your health a priority is always a good idea, no matter the time of year. Losing weight benefits your physical and emotional well-being and may be the solution for easing your sciatica.
Let us help you manage your sciatica. Call the Orthopedic & Wellness location convenient to you, or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment with our skilled physicians today.