Sciatica is a condition characterized by painful symptoms, often originating from the lower back all the way down to the toes. Sciatica is brought on by the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve begins around the lumbar spine and runs down to the feet. Sciatica can be caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve anywhere along its length. But the most frequent cause of sciatica is irritation to the sciatic nerve either in the lower back or in the gluteal region caused by poor posture.
Sciatica generally presents itself as a very specific collection of symptoms. If you can’t pin-point exactly where your pain is (i.e. if the entire leg just aches or if your symptoms are quite vague), it’s unlikely that you have sciatica. Sciatica typically runs as a band of pain through the low back and the buttocks, and also down the hamstring, occasionally traveling as low as the calf muscle and even the feet and toes. If you experience a sensation similar to pins and needles and/or numbness, the severity of your sciatica is much worse than if you just have pain.
Poor Posture Reasons For Sciatica
Poor workplace ergonomics can be a significant contributing aspect to the development of sciatica. Further, if you already have sciatica, inadequate workstation ergonomics is very likely to make it worse. A leading ergonomic issue in regard to sciatica is increased back pain that’s brought on by poor posture while sitting and standing. It you embrace a slouched or slumped position, or you lean forward at your desk, you place a tremendous amount of strain on your lumbar spine. This can result in your lower back muscles going into spasm. The sciatic nerve has to operate through those muscles. If they are spasmodic, there is a heightened likelihood that the sciatic nerve will end up irritated and develop symptoms of sciatica.
Sitting for extended periods of time is just another issue, for two reasons:
- First, in sitting, your bodyweight is transferred from your upper body to your pelvis, throughout the lumbar spine. This implies that there is a continuous, and dull, compressive force going through the lower spine. Over time, this may result in irritation to the nerves as they leave the spinal cord canal. This is much more of a problem for people who have sciatica. Sciatica will frequently cause inflammation around the nerve root where it exits the spinal canal. This means there’s less “wiggle” room for the nerve to move and continuous compression may impinge this nerve, causing symptoms.
- Second, the sciatic nerve runs throughout the gluteal region. Especially, it runs through a muscle called the piriformis muscle, which happens to be in about the region of your sitting bone. When you sit, you really literally sit on the piriformis muscles along with the sciatic nerve. Therefore, when you sit you’re compressing the sciatic nerve. Compression that is constant could lead to the piriformis muscle moving into spasm. Similarly to above, in the event the piriformis muscle goes into spasm, the sciatic nerve is very likely to be compacted and irritated, leading to some kind of sciatic symptoms.
Furthermore, healthcare professionals say that poor posture may cause more than just back pain and sciatica. Poor posture may actually cause a variety of health issues, according to research studies.
Effects of Poor Posture
Posture is an important part of preventing issues which range from back pain to fatigue. When the spine is properly aligned, the spine is stabilized and supported, however as you slouch or practice other methods of poor posture, your spine no longer gets the support it needs to remain balanced, leading to many health issues. The following health issues may also present themselves as a result of poor posture.
The most common effect of poor posture includes sore muscles. As you slouch, the muscles have to work harder to keep the spine protected and stabilized. The extra work on these muscles may cause muscle stiffness and fatigue. This can lead to chronic health issues with sore and tight muscles from the neck all the way down to the lower spine. Two big muscle groups which bare the brunt of these problems are the flexors and extensors of the back, which allow you to bend forward and lift objects.
Among the most serious health issues that could happen with bad posture is developing a severe spinal curvature. As stated by the Chiropractic Resource Organization, the human spine has four natural curves which form an “s” shape. When poor posture is practiced, the spine can experience pressure, gradually influencing the spine curves to modify their positions. The spine is particularly designed to help absorb shock and keep you balanced, but as the spinal column position changes, this capacity becomes compromised.
Once the spinal curve is altered, one major problem that may occur are subluxations, or spinal misalignments. Vertebral subluxations occurs when a vertebrae becomes misaligneds from the rest of the spine. This also affects the total integrity of the remaining spine. These misalignments can eventually lead to chronic health issues, such as stress and aggravation of neighboring spinal nerves.
Blood Vessel Constriction
As bad posture changes the alignment of the spine, the consequent movement and subluxations can cause problems with blood vessel constriction. The constriction of the arteries across the spine can cut off blood supply to the cells of their muscles, which may influence nutrient and oxygen supply. Blood vessel constriction can also raise your chances of clot formation and issues using deep vein thrombosis.
One of the most frequent side effects of bad posture is nerve compression. As the spine changes in shape, the resulting movements or subluxations can put stress on the surrounding spinal nerves. Since the nerves which connect to the spine come from all over the body, these pinched nerves can not only cause neck and back pain but might also cause pain in other unrelated regions of the body.
In a 2013 study conducted Japan done by Kamitani et al, posture was connected to a decrease in lifespan and in activities of daily living. The study concluded that posture had a significant impact on quality of life as well as life expectancy.
Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Insight
Whether you’re slouching over your laptop, looking down at your mobile phone, bending over to pick up a box or simply sitting behind a desk for an extended amount of time, all of these regular activities can negatively affect your posture. Poor posture can not only cause back pain and symptoms of sciatica, it can manifest into a wide array of health issues if not properly corrected in time. Various research studies have even demonstrated that poor posture can affect longevity and life expectancy. Chiropractic care can help carefully restore the alignment of the spine, to recover the human body from the effects of poor posture.
Correcting Poor Posture to Improve Sciatica
The first thing that needs to be done to correct poor posture is to find a diagnosis from a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist. They will be able to aid you with a treatment program and with hands-on therapy to alleviate your symptoms. Chiropractic care is a well-known, alternative treatment option which focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a variety of injuries and/or conditions associated to the musculoskeletal and nervous system. Also, an ergonomic evaluation is a good idea. It is best practice to allow an expert to perform an ergonomic assessment for you when you’re injured, as opposed to attempting to do it yourself. This is because of the probability of making things worse when it is not done properly.
But if an ergonomic appraisal isn’t a possibility for you, consider these hints:
- Try to integrate some standing into your daily work day, to decrease the constant pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Take regular walks during your working day and consider a stretch to your gluteal area.
- Make sure your workstation is set up ergonomically to prevent additional exacerbation, paying special attention to the following:
- Ensure you are not leaning forwards;
- Make sure that your backrest is large enough so that the lumbar support is comfortably supporting the lower spine;
- Ensure your seat cushion isn’t too tough;
- Ensure that your feet are well supported;
- Make sure your office chair is not too low, as this promotes slouching.
One last note, sciatica may be a difficult condition to take care of. So where possible, involving a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic, is in your best interests, towards correcting your poor posture and improving symptoms of sciatica, among others. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Back Pain
According to statistics, approximately 80% of people will experience symptoms of back pain at least once throughout their lifetimes. Back pain is a common complaint which can result due to a variety of injuries and/or conditions. Often times, the natural degeneration of the spine with age can cause back pain. Herniated discs occur when the soft, gel-like center of an intervertebral disc pushes through a tear in its surrounding, outer ring of cartilage, compressing and irritating the nerve roots. Disc herniations most commonly occur along the lower back, or lumbar spine, but they may also occur along the cervical spine, or neck. The impingement of the nerves found in the low back due to injury and/or an aggravated condition can lead to symptoms of sciatica.