There are many risk factors for sciatica — that singular lower back pain that can shoot down into your buttock and leg. While age is one of the most influential factors, carrying extra weight plays no small role.
As spine health experts, the team here at Spinal Diagnostics specializes in the myriad conditions that lead to back pain, and sciatica certainly accounts for its fair share of the problem.
Affecting up to 40% of adults in the United States, several risk factors for sciatica and being overweight or having obesity are near the top of the list.
If you’ve gained some weight and, concurrently, you’ve developed sciatica, the odds are quite good that the two are related.
To understand how weight can cause or exacerbate sciatica, we should step back and review what causes this type of lower back pain.
Your lower back features five large vertebrae, five intervertebral discs, and five pairs of nerve roots that exit the spine. Your sciatic nerve is composed of five nerve roots that come together to form the largest nerve in your body, which starts in your lower back and splits to travel down each side of your buttocks and legs.
When you develop sciatica, it means something is compressing this nerve, which can cause symptoms in your lower back, as well as symptoms that can travel down the length of the nerve on one side.
In most cases, the compression stems from an intervertebral disc that’s escaped its space and irritates the nerve. Herniated, bulging, or ruptured — are all names for disc material that presses against your sciatic nerve.
Your spine is designed to carry a certain amount of weight, and the discs act as spacers that separate your vertebrae, providing cushioning and support.
If you add weight to your frame, these discs feel the pressure and can compress. If you combine this with age-related degenerative disc disease — a common problem as you get older and your discs wear down — the added weight and weaker discs make you far more prone to sciatica.
Studies such as this one show that obesity has a causal effect on sciatica, which means that it can directly create the problem. Still, we’d also like to point out that added weight can certainly exacerbate the discomfort.
The bottom line is that you’re not doing your back any favors when carrying too much weight. But, whatever caused your sciatica, we have solutions that can make you more comfortable as you do your part to prevent further problems in your spine through weight loss.
If you’d like to learn more about the connection between weight and sciatica or you’d like to explore your treatment options for the lower back problem, please contact one of our locations in Tualatin and Newberg, Oregon, to set up an appointment.