For most of us, the process of starting back to school means an increase in time sitting still. We are sitting in the in car during rush hour traffic. Sitting at a desk or computer, sitting through a meeting or two and then sitting in our favorite chair at home each evening. A 2008 Vanderbilt University study estimated that the average American spends 55% of waking time (7.7 hours per day) in a sedentary behavior such as sitting. The constant sitting that occurs as a result of a desk-job or being overly sedentary can also put excess pressure on the lower back and legs which can cause sciatica.
The main nerve traveling down the leg is the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve transmits sensation from the lower extremities and lumbar area of the low back. Pain associated with the sciatic nerve usually originates higher along the spinal cord when nerve roots become compressed or damaged from narrowing of the vertebral column or from an injured disc. Symptoms can include tingling, numbness, or pain, which radiates to the buttocks, legs and feet. Sciatica is a common condition as we reach middle age. The most common causes of sciatica are degenerative spinal arthritis and lumbar disk herniation. Another common cause is from the piriformis muscle; a deep muscle in the buttock can compress the sciatic nerve and lead to irritation and pain.
Here are some helpful tips to prevent the progression and severity of sciatic pain:
Have good posture-- the lumbar part of the spine consists of a forward curve and if this is maintained, posture will be reasonably good. An improved posture is important to maintain during all activities, particularly when sitting for long periods - slumping should be avoided. A lumbar roll placed at the belt line or a seating support can be effective when prolonged sitting is unavoidable.
Be sure to stand, often— at school or work the goal is to get up and stand for 3 minutes every half hour. While at home, don’t fly through the recorded commercials on your DVR, get up and move about.
Watch where your legs lay—keep from crossing those legs while at your desk, during meetings or when eating. Using a rolled-up towel against the driver side door will keep your left leg in a better neutral position while sitting in traffic.
Move the money--A wallet or object that is in the back pocket during prolonged sitting can lead to piriformis syndrome and irritation of the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica. Placing the wallet in the front pocket instead can avoid the problem.
To detect the cause of sciatica, the doctor will ask you about all the symptoms you are experiencing as well as the location and aggravating or relieving features. If you experience any of the symptoms described above, and would like to know more about your condition, Drs. Maxwell are here and ready to help!
For more tips from the Drs. Maxwell, check out our website, like our Facebook page, or call for a consultation! Maximize your health and living with these tips and more, today!