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How Your Weight Affects Your Sciatica Pain

How Your Weight Affects Your Sciatica Pain

Sciatic pain is common, affecting about 40% of adults at some point in their life. Fortunately, there are many ways you can reduce your risk of developing this intense shooting pain that travels down your leg.

One way to reduce the risk and pain of sciatica is to lose weight. Losing weight can also improve your overall health, so it's a good sciatica risk to tackle because the benefits of achieving a healthy weight go far beyond sciatica pain relief.

At Midwest Sports and Interventional Spine in Kenosha and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, board-certified interventional pain management expert Cyril Philip, MD, can diagnose and treat sciatica pain. Dr. Philip uses minimally invasive procedures that help you achieve long-term relief and enable you to return to an active, pain-free life. 

Here, Dr. Philip explains what causes sciatica pain and how your weight affects your risk and symptoms.

What causes sciatica pain?

The term "sciatica" refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. It is not one nerve but a collection of nerves. Sciatica is not a condition but rather a symptom of a back or spine-related condition that leads to compression of your sciatic nerve center. These conditions include:

Additionally, certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, being physically inactive, and having a physical job, increase your risk of developing these conditions and sciatica pain. 

Being obese or overweight is also a factor in developing sciatica, but this factor can also make your sciatica pain and symptoms more severe. One meta-analysis of 26 clinical studies found that being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk of being hospitalized or needing surgery for your sciatic pain.

How being obese affects your sciatica pain

Carrying around excess pounds puts pressure on your spine, especially the lumbar region where your sciatic nerve center lives. Losing weight can lighten the load on your spine, reducing the risk of strain on your vertebrae. Here's where that excess pressure on your back can lead: 

Disc compression

You have 23 vertebral discs in your spinal column. These discs act as shock absorbers and support your spinal column. The increased load on your spine caused by excess weight can compress these spinal discs and lead to conditions like herniated discs or spinal stenosis, both of which can contribute to sciatica pain. 

Inflammation and nerve compression

Obesity can lead to inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation can affect your nerves, including the sciatic nerve, leading to compression and subsequent pain. 

Poor posture and alignment

Carrying extra weight can alter your posture and spinal alignment. Poor posture places additional stress on the lower back and can contribute to sciatica. 

Fortunately, even minor weight loss through a healthy eating and exercise plan can reduce inflammation and pressure on the spine. For those who experience continued sciatica pain despite lifestyle changes, there are a variety of treatment options to help you find relief.

If you're experiencing sciatica pain, call Midwest Sports and Interventional Spine today for an expert diagnosis and effective treatment plan. You can also request an appointment online.

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