Think sciatica is only caused by spinal injury? Your jeans and shoes may tell a different story.
(Written by Reginald Q. Knight, MD, MHA Article taken from Spine Universe)
Sciatica is a debilitating set of symptoms caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve. It can send shooting rays of pain, weakness, and numbness from your low back all the way down your legs into your feet. Because sciatica can be intense, many assume it’s caused by something equally as serious—such as spinal injury or trauma. While those things can lead to sciatica, some seemingly benign parts of daily life can also cause it.
Below are four of the lesser-known ways you might be putting yourself at risk for sciatica.
Strange Sciatica Cause #1: Keeping Items in Your Back Pocket
Do you regularly pop your cell phone or wallet into your back pocket? Carrying items in your back pocket and sitting on them may trigger sciatica. When you sit down with items in your back pocket, you risk irritating your piriformis muscle. Because the sciatic nerve runs beneath this muscle, it can get compressed as a result. While the impact of sitting on items in your back pocket hasn’t been defined by the medical community, it has spawned some names, including “back-pocket sciatica” and “cell-phone sciatica.”
Strange Sciatica Cause #2: Wearing High Heels
Wearing high heels pushes your weight forward. Your body responds by flexing forward at the hips to keep you upright. Here’s where the risk of sciatica appears: Flexing at the hips stretches your hamstrings, and your sciatic nerve runs down the back of your legs alongside your hamstrings. That means stretched hamstrings may risk irritating the nearby sciatic nerve.
Besides possibly upping your sciatica risk, high heels can cause other spine problems, too.
Strange Sciatica Cause #3: Wearing Tight Jeans and Underwear
Do these jeans make me look like I’m compressing my sciatic nerve? Overly tight-fitting pants and underwear aren’t doing you favors in the fashion department, and they might contribute to sciatic nerve pain. Before you toss out your jeans in favor of sweat pants, simply opt for clothing allows you to move freely. It seems obvious, but if your clothing is cutting off circulation, you shouldn’t wear it. Also, if you wear tighter pants, don’t stay in the same position for too long—particularly sitting. Keep moving, and your clothing should not pose a health risk.
Strange Sciatica Cause #4: Being Overweight
Being overweight or obese has many connections to back pain, including sciatica. Excess body weight puts stress on your spine, which can cause spinal disorders that ultimately lead to sciatica. Also, research has found an association between being overweight and having sciatica. Keeping a healthy weight does a great deal toward reducing your risk of developing debilitating sciatic nerve pain.
Regardless of the Cause, Sciatica’s Impact Is Serious
If you experience the pain of sciatica, odds are you’ll never forget it. Whether you feel gradual weakness developing down your leg or a sudden burst of pain, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor to understand the issue and underlying cause. Many sciatica treatments exist to reduce or eliminate your low back and leg pain. Your doctor will work with you to develop the best course of treatment.