Low Back Pain Prevention: Sciatica

There’s nothing like low back pain to make you feel old and busted. The adage really is true that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of the cure. In helping low back pain prevention-we must first understand the type of low back pain, it’s symptoms and best treatments.

Sciatica & It’s Symptoms

Sciatica is one of the most common low back dysfunctions. According to researchers, 90% of sciatica is most often caused from a herniated disc that compresses/pinches a nerve root. The most common symptoms of sciatica are:

  • low back pain more on one side
  • pain radiating down the leg and foot
  • numbness in one leg
  • stretching seems to make the leg pain worse

What Doesn’t Work

It’s just as important to know what NOT to do as it is what TO do. In the same research article cited above, researchers found that bed rest-which used to be the ‘go-to’ prescription isn’t as effective as light movement. They also found in their review that NSAIDs (tylenol, etc) weren’t any better than a placebo. While epidurals are available for sciatic pain, there was no statically significant improvements short-term.

Another common piece of advice that doesn’t work, is to stretch your hamstrings. Leading back researcher, Dr. Stu McGill says in his book, The Back Mechanic, “Stretching a painful sciatic nerve will only make it more sensitive. Yet, many mistakenly think stretching their hamstring muscles is the solution” (pg 132).

Bottom line: The best strategy is to address the cause not the symptoms! 

What Does Work For Low Back Pain Prevention

Dr. McGill lists several things you can do, as well as things to avoid, that will alleviate your sciatic pain. He suggests:

  1. Avoid sitting for long periods
  2. Avoid repeated spinal flexing (bending forward) and stretching
  3. Walking can really help provide relief
  4. Adopt/use “pain-free postures
  5. Try nerve flossing

For more information on pain-free postures & flossing, check out this article.

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