Sciatica is one of the most common kinds of pain, affecting 40% of Americans during their lifetimes. Its frequency increases with age, according to the experts at Harvard Medical School.
“People who suffer from acute or chronic back pain tend to be more susceptible to sciatica,” says Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School. “Your risk rises if you are obese, if you smoke, or if you are sedentary.”
According to Spine-Health.com, the taller or more overweight you are, the more you are at risk for the condition, which usually lasts between 4 and 6 weeks with proper treatment.
According to the Mayo Clinic, other factors can cause the searing, severe pain or numbness that runs from your lower back down your leg. Diabetes can be a cause, and how you earn your living may also make you more prone to sciatica. For example, people who lift and carry heavy loads or those who drive long distances often suffer from the debilitating condition.
Dr. David Brownstein, M.D., a leading contributor to Newsmax and editor of Dr. David Brownstein’s Natural Way to Health, says the usual underlying cause of sciatica is spinal stenosis, “the narrowing of the lumbar or sacral spinal canal, which pinches the sciatic nerve.” He adds that degenerative disc disease, in which the lower lumbar discs collapse on one another and pinch the sciatic nerve, is another common reason people develop the condition.
Fortunately, most people can heal themselves without resorting to surgery to alleviate sciatic pain. The first thing Brownstein recommends is to drink lots of water. “The discs that line the spine are very sensitive to a person’s hydration status,” he explains. “Many sciatic patients can resolve their own pain just rehydrating with water.”
One simple movement that can bring immediate pain relief is sitting in a chair and bending your upper body over your knees, folding forward. Breathe into the stretch to relax the muscles around your spine and to increase the space between the vertebrae that will, in turn, take pressure off the nerves. Healthline offers six other stretches to help with sciatic pain.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend exercising regularly and paying attention to the muscles around your abdomen and back to strengthen your core to prevent sciatica. Consider placing a rolled-up towel behind your lower back for support when you sit at your desk. Be careful to use your legs, and not your back, when lifting heavy objects.
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