If you have ever experienced sciatica then you know just how painful and debilitating it can be. Sciatica is not the term for a specific injury, but rather refers to a collection of symptoms you experience when there is too much pressure on your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a sensitive nerve ending at the bottom of your spine that can be affected by a variety of injuries and ailments, which can cause pain symptoms your spine doctor will refer to as sciatica. There are common injuries and ailments that can cause sciatica, such as a car accident injury or spinal stenosis. But did you know there are other aspects of your daily life that can actually cause sciatica pain?
Here are three examples of surprising causes of sciatica.
Wearing High Heels
Yes, ladies, unfortunately, those high heels you love to wear might actually be causing your sciatica pain. Walking in high heels actually engages slightly different muscles than when you are walking in flatter shoes. When you wear high heels you unconsciously end up shifting your body weight forward onto the balls of your feet and the muscles in your hips and legs compensate by flexing or tightening to hold you upright.
The sciatic nerve actually runs from the bottom of your spine through the back of your leg, so when you flex the muscles in the back of your leg for long periods of time, this can actually cause stress and pressure on the sciatic nerve. If you struggle with sciatica pain then your best bet is to avoid standing and walking in high heels, or simply avoid wearing them altogether.
Do you have a family member who always seems to know when it’s about to rain because they can “just feel it in their bones”? Well, there may be some truth to that after all! When the temperature changes quickly or the pressure in the air drops as a storm rolls in, anyone with overly sensitive nerves are likely to feel this change in pressure. This also relates to times when the air gets really humid in the summer months.
In cold weather, your body may react to the cold by tensing up muscles, and your muscles might even get stiff if you are in cold weather for a long time. If the muscles along your back, hips, or legs get stiff from the cold then it could very well put stress on the sciatic nerve and cause hip or back pain. Conversely, in warm and hot weather, you may find yourself outside more, whether sitting on bleachers at a sporting event or participating in recreational sports. The risk for a back injury can be higher when you play high-impact sports, or even if you are a spectator sitting at a game for long periods of time.
Another type of sitting for long periods of time can involve travel. If you have a long-distance road trip coming up or a long flight planned, it is important to take precautions to help ease or even avoid sciatica, especially if you are already prone to this type of pain. Sitting still for a long period of time, especially in an uncomfortable seat or position, can put a lot of strain on your back and your sciatic nerve. It is also important to consider how uncomfortable seats can cause you to have poor posture, hunch over, or scrunch up in a small space. Whether you are the one driving the car or you are the passenger, sitting for long periods of time can also lead to sciatica because of how your muscles stiffen up.
Incorporating frequent breaks into a long car trip can help keep your muscles flexible by doing a few simple stretches as you stand up and move your body out of the sitting position. Because sciatica can occur from your lower back through your legs and down to your feet, it is important to stretch and flex all those muscles so they don’t get stiff. If you are on a long flight and suffer from sciatica, consider opting for an aisle seat so you feel more comfortable standing up and even walking the length of the plane and back if you feel your body tense up.
Talk to your spine doctor if you are experiencing sciatica and know that no detail about your daily routine or lifestyle is too silly a reason to possibly impact your sciatica! Give us a call.