How Your Weight Affects Your Sciatica Pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical complaints in the U.S., and when you consider all the hard work your back does, that’s not at all surprising. Your back helps you walk, lift, bend, reach, and even balance yourself, whether you're standing up or sitting down. And it does it all while supporting the lion’s share of your weight.

You can have pain in any area of your back, but pain in the lower back is especially common, mainly because that’s the part of your back that’s the most flexible, and therefore, exposed to the most strain when you move. It’s also subjected to the most weight-bearing activities and demands. Not only does your lower back have the weight of your upper body to support, but it’s also got the belly area to contend with, along with the buttocks and hips below. If you are overweight, most of that weight accumulates in these areas, and that means every time you climb stairs, take a walk, bend, lift, sit, or stand, your lower back has to provide the necessary muscle power and flexibility while also supporting all that extra weight. It’s not a good combination — and being overweight and obese can have a direct effect on your back health and on painful conditions like sciatica. Here’s how.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is a painful condition that’s actually named for the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body. This nerve exits the spine at the lower back and splits into two branches, with each branch traveling down a leg. When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and other symptoms in the lower back and sometimes radiating into the buttock and down the leg. 

Compression on the sciatic nerve can be caused by a few different underlying issues, but the most common cause is a herniated disc. Discs are spongy “cushions” located between each pair of spine bones, and they help absorb shocks while also maintaining flexibility in your back. When a disc slips out of its position, it’s called a herniated disc. The displaced disc winds up causing irritation and inflammation, which in turn compresses and irritates the sciatic nerve.

Reduce the weight, reduce the pain

A herniated disc may be the primary cause of sciatica — but then, what causes the disc to herniate in the first place? This is where carrying those extra pounds comes into play. When we gain weight, it throws off our body’s balance, putting extra strain on many of our muscles, including the muscles in the lower back. Most of us tend to gain the most weight in our bellies. And since the belly region is more or less “opposite” the lower back, it’s these muscles that feel the most strain. At the same time, the added belly weight pulls on the spine, shifting it forward, out of alignment. Both of these problems — excess muscle strain and a shift in the spine’s alignment — combine to coax the discs out of their normal positions.

Once we lose those extra pounds, the strain on those muscles decreases, and our spine can slowly move back into alignment — with the help of skilled chiropractic treatment. Plus, losing weight can help us be more physically active, which in turn can strengthen our back and belly muscles (the so-called “core” muscles) to help hold the spine in place and reduce the risk of sciatica in the future.

Put an end to painful sciatica symptoms

At Reno Regenerative Medicine, we offer state-of-the-art treatments for back pain, along with simple yet effective lifestyle changes that can help you relieve back pain and improve your overall mobility. Our team takes a comprehensive approach to back care, combining treatments and creating a custom care plan that’s focused on helping you get better. If you’re ready to say good-bye to painful sciatica symptoms, we can help. To get started, book an appointment online today.

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