What causes sciatica and what can you do to prevent it?

what causes sciatica

The largest single nerve strand is located in your lower back and legs. It’s known as the sciatic nerve, and it runs from the lower back and splits down the back of each of your legs. When this nerve is irritated, inflamed or compressed, you’ll experience pain in your lower back that spreads into one or both of your legs. This is known as sciatica.

Sciatica varies in severity depending on the cause. For example, too many hours of prolonged sitting can exert a lot of pressure on your lower back. Over time, this can irritate the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica. However, if you are generally healthy and fit, your pain may go away after a few days or a week. 

For some people, sciatica lasts much longer than this. In these circumstances, it generally has something to do with a chronic condition or prolonged pressure from excess body weight or a sedentary lifestyle. 

What can you do to prevent sciatica?

Sciatica is not always preventable because of certain medical conditions, such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or arthritis. However, since many cases of sciatica are caused by prolonged pressure on the spine, you can take some steps to keep this from happening:

  • Exercise — A sedentary lifestyle leads to weaker and stiffer muscles in your body. If the muscles in your legs, lower back and core grow weak and stiff, your spine will take on more of the load of your upper body weight. This can lead to the irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
  • Maintain a healthy weight — Excess body weight increases pressure on your sciatic nerve. Exercising and improving your diet can help you reach a healthy body weight that reduces your risk of sciatica.
  • Avoid sitting for too long — Sitting increases pressure on your spine. Many of us sit for hours every day in school or at work. Make sure to take a break at least once per hour to move around or stretch. This can help keep your muscles active and reduce your risk of sciatica.
  • Improve your posture — Poor posture increases strain on your back and core muscles, which also increases strain on your spine. Improve your posture by sitting up straight with proper support, keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground while your hips and knees remain level.

Visit Holland Physical Therapy for sciatica treatment

If sciatica is constantly bothering you, you may have a condition that needs professional treatment. At Holland Physical Therapy, we can examine your condition and help you through a course of treatment designed to reduce and prevent sciatica pain. Contact our team today for more information about what causes sciatica or to schedule an initial appointment.