Why sciatica causes pain down your leg

Sciatica

We’ve been seeing lots of patients at our clinic Preferred Physical Therapy in Arizona with extreme back pain caused by sciatica, with pain shooting down the back of their legs.

Check out this new low back pain program that you can complete from the comfort of your own home. Low Back Pain Elimination Course.

Do you get shooting pain down the back of your leg?

This pain could be sciatica.

This blog post covers this regular question and everything you’d need to know about sciatica, including:

  • What is sciatica?
  • What causes sciatica?
  • How do I ease sciatica?

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica happens when something presses or rubs on the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica is a type of pain caused by an irritated nerve. This pain is often felt from your bottom right down to your feet (and sometimes even your toes!).

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica is most commonly caused by a slipped disc. This puts pressure on the sciatic nerve and in return causes the pain you’re feeling.

However, certain behaviors or factors can raise your risk of developing sciatica. The most common factors for developing sciatica include the following:

  • As your body ages, it becomes more likely that parts will wear out or break down.
  • Certain careers place a lot of strain on your back, especially those that involve lifting heavy objects, sitting for extended periods, or twisting movements.
  • Having bad posture.

What Is A Slipped Disk?

A disc is a small fluid-filled sac that sits between the bones in your back, you have lots of these. It’s often better to think of them as little jam doughnuts (little potentially painful jam doughnuts!), and their purpose is to protect the bones in your back as you move.

As you bend forwards, whether this is picking something up or having generally bad posture. The discs are pinched at the front and the fluid inside the discs goes to the back. For example, imagine if you squeeze a jam doughnut, the jam inside will move away from where you’re squeezing.

Now, imagine that you’re in a job where you’re always bending forwards, leaning forwards, and/or picking up objects.

Eventually, this repetitive squeezing of the disc will cause the wall of the disc to wear down and the fluid will come out. Much like the jam doughnut we talked about! Instead of having sticky jammy fingers that can be cleaned. You now have a very painful shooting sciatic sensation. As the disc presses on the nerve that travels all the way down the back of your leg.

How Can I Ease Pain Caused By Sciatica?

The problem is that if you completely rest when you’re in pain, not only does the disc stay slipped but also the muscles that control your lower back will become weak. Therefore provide less support to the already problematic and painful area.

Limiting the amount of time that you spend sitting can help too. I know what you’re going to say… ‘sitting doesn’t make it worse. However, we find that many clients are sitting in a modified or slouched way to avoid their pain.

This makes your pain last longer and often leaves you with an uncomfortable-looking posture long after the back trouble has gone.

Here are Our Expert Tips To Help You Ease Your Sciatica Pain…

Don’t Stop Walking

Continue gentle exercise as soon as you can anything that gets you moving can help.

Gentle walking can work wonders for those suffering from sciatica because regular walking spurs the release of pain-fighting endorphins and reduces inflammation.

Walking is one of the most overlooked forms of exercise, it’s simple, free, and one of the best ways to get more active, become healthier, and lose weight without too much effort.

Check out this blog to learn why walking is beneficial.

Fix Your Posture!

First, try to make sure you have a good posture when sitting and standing.

Bad posture can compress your discs and irritate the sciatic nerve. Your speed of walking, length of the stride, and initial contact on the floor could be the reason why you’re in so much pain with your back.

Take a slower pace through taking slower steps and make sure you gently roll onto your toes and push off – this will shorten your stride.

When you walk with a good posture that takes the stress away from your spine. You engage the core abdominal and back muscles as they work in sync.

The reality is that we were NOT designed to sit down for 9+ hours a day. Our bodies are not shaped to do so and we don’t have the natural ability to cope with spending all of our time sitting down. Sitting has become so frequent and extensive that I doubt you’ve ever questioned how much of it you actually do.

Being in a slouched position is one of the major causes of back pain as the pressure from sitting damages the lower back, which then leads to sciatica and stiffness in the neck joints. Sitting up properly with your shoulders back and your back straight can help to improve your posture.

Alternate Heat And Ice Therapy

By using both heat and ice therapy it can provide relief for sciatica. While ice helps with inflammation and heat which encourages blood flow, but it is essential to ease painful muscle spasms.

Stretch It Out!

Every day that you wake up and you’re not doing something small to help yourself to stay active you’ll be getting stiffer. You’ll be losing the flexibility of vital muscles and joints, and as this happens, you’re more likely to suffer from things like sciatica and other life-changing pains.

Watch this video for some stretches you can do to help achieve low back pain relief.

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Nick Hunter, PT, DPT
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