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How Your Weight Affects Your Sciatica Pain

Dec 06, 2019
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That telltale shooting pain can strike at any time — wrapping gifts, decorating a tree, or sitting in traffic. Is your sciatica acting up? It could be due to the extra winter weight you’re carrying. Find out how pounds and pain are connected.

Being overweight or obese is bad for multiple reasons. It can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and more. But there’s another health condition that obesity affects, and you may not even realize it. 

If you have sciatica, you know that you have a compressed nerve in your lower back that sends sharp pains through your buttocks and down your leg. If you’ve been to a doctor, you may even know the root cause, such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, muscle spasm, pregnancy, or a bone spur, to name a few of the culprits. 

Our expert team of doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners at Commonwealth Pain and Spine all specialize in pain management, including the sometimes-debilitating pain from sciatica. We also know that there is a direct link between your weight and your sciatic pain. So while we treat your condition with the goal of alleviating your pain, you can do your part by losing weight. Here’s why.

The link between weight gain and sciatica

By definition, sciatica is the result of radiculopathy, or a compressed nerve. This is the longest and largest nerve in your body, and it runs from your low back through your bottom and down your leg. That’s why a pinched sciatic nerve in your back can be felt two feet away in your leg or foot. It may be shocking pain, numbness and tingling, or even weakness. And believe it or not, your weight plays a role in this condition.

Extra weight means extra pressure

The last thing you want to do is add pressure to an already compressed nerve, but that’s exactly what your excess weight is doing. Your spine has to support your weight, so if you pack on extra pounds, it’s going to sag under that pressure and keep pushing on that sciatic nerve. 

Extra weight means less exercise

Let’s face it, the heavier you are, the less likely you are to get out and move. The less you move, the more likely you are to keep gaining weight. 

To break the cycle of your sedentary and weight-gaining lifestyle, begin by doing something simple, like walking a block each day, parking farther away from the storefront or office you’re visiting, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. As you’re able, increase your activity and eat healthy meals (no crash diets), and you’ll notice a difference on the scale and in your sciatica pain.

The link between weight loss and sciatica

Clearly, obesity impacts sciatica, but is the reverse true? Does losing weight improve sciatica symptoms? Yes. Some people even report that their sciatic pain comes and goes as their weight fluctuates. That means your pain level may be within your control.

Losing weight means increased healing efficiency

In order for your body to heal whatever’s causing your sciatica, it needs to be in the best condition possible. As you lose weight, you allow your body to shift its focus away from protecting your organs from the ravages of obesity and turn its attention to the task of healing your sciatica. 

Losing weight means you may stay healthier and stronger

With exercise and weight loss come leaner, stronger muscles. Caring for your musculoskeletal system gives you an advantage in disease and injury prevention. Yoga, sports, cycling, swimming, and many other activities done at your own pace and skill level can all contribute to a healthier you and a triumph over sciatica. 

Complementing your weight loss with sciatica treatments

At Commonwealth Pain and Spine, our board-certified physicians get to the root of your pain and treat the underlying cause to eliminate it once and for all. In our state-of-the-art facilities, we use the latest technology, including lumbar discography, to diagnose your condition and design your treatment plan. If physical therapy and exercise are the best things for you, but the pain prevents you from doing the work, we can help you get past that hurdle.

Medications, nerve blocks, and epidural steroid injections can be effective aids in your treatment, allowing you to follow through with your therapies and engage in exercise that supports your recovery and helps you lose weight. 

In some cases, surgery might be the best option to alleviate whatever’s causing your sciatica. If so, then the better shape you’re in, the better your recovery journey will be.

So if you’re overweight, do yourself and your sciatica a favor and call us for a consultation at any of our 12 locations in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois to find out how we can help alleviate your sciatica and how you can help by losing weight.