Sciatica is a common pain problem that affects about 5% of adults. Sciatica is a symptom rather than a specific diagnosis: sciatic pain can have a number of different causes, and getting a proper diagnosis is key in getting relief from this condition.
While pinpointing the root cause of sciatica can be challenging, the medical research has established the factors that increase the risk of a person developing sciatic nerve pain.
Here are the nine most common risk factors for developing sciatica:
As we get older, we lose flexibility and it takes us longer for our body to heal from injuries. One of the most common types of pain associated with aging is lower back pain, and back pain is very closely linked to sciatica.1,2
2. History of Low Back Pain
Research shows that patients who have problems with low back pain are more likely to eventually develop sciatica. Low back pain can result in a general inflammation in the lumbar spine, and this can start to spread to the sciatic nerve.
It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health, and it’s also clear that smokers are more likely to suffer from back pain and sciatica.3
Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs and cardiovascular system; it’s also associated with inflammation, poor circulation, and a weakened immune system. This makes it harder for your body to function properly and makes it more difficult for your body to heal from injuries.
4. Overall Poor Health
Wellness is about flexibility and movement, and if our general health is poor, it’s difficult to stay active and healthy. Research shows that physical fitness is a great way to prevent and treat back pain.4
In addition, poor cardiovascular health is closely associated with a general inflammatory response in the body, which also increases the chances of musculoskeletal pain and sciatica.5
Being overweight is one of the strongest predictors of back pain and other musculoskeletal problems, including sciatica.
Research shows that adipose tissue actually creates inflammatory markers which can affect our whole body, including our cardiovascular and nervous system. Remember: all sciatica pain is caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve, and sciatica is more likely if your whole body is in an inflammatory state.
6. Work-Related Injuries
Repetitive movements or being too sedentary are detrimental to your musculoskeletal health, and this holds true for sciatica, as well.
Studies show that work-related activities can lead to sciatic nerve pain. Here are a few of the work conditions that have been associated with sciatica in the medical literature:
- Standing or walking for long stretches.
- Driving for long periods of time.
- Pulling or kneeling for more than 15 minutes at a time.
- Whole-body vibration.
If your work includes any of these activities, it’s critical to take breaks frequently, rest, and stretch a bit to prevent muscle injury and pain.
7. Sleep Problems
Research shows that poor sleep quality is associated with back pain and sciatica. This is a difficult issue, as poor sleep is also associated with other health issues, such as poor general health, obesity, and chronic pain. Sleep dysfunction is also associated with generalized inflammation, which is also linked to chronic pain.
8. Direct Injury
Less frequently, sciatica can be caused by an injury to the hip or buttocks, resulting in pain. One example of this would be sitting on a bulky wallet, which puts pressure on the nerve directly.
9. Psychological Distress
Low back pain and sciatica are linked to stress, as well. Monotonous or unsatisfying work and general stress can lead to chronic musculoskeletal pain.
A Whole Body Approach to Recovery
As you can see, many different factors play a role in the development of sciatica. Typically, it’s not just a single issue that results in pain, but a combination of factors. That’s why the most effective treatment and prevention of future episodes require a whole-body approach that looks at the root cause of your pain.
- Cook CE, Taylor J, Wright A, Milosavljevic S, Goode A, Whitford M. Risk factors for first time incidence sciatica: a systematic review. Physiotherapy Research International 2014 Jun;19(2):65-78. doi: 10.1002/pri.1572. Epub 2013 Dec 11. Review. PubMed PMID: 24327326.
- Parreira P, Maher CG, Steffens D, Hancock MJ, Ferreira ML. Risk factors for low back pain and sciatica: an umbrella review. Spine J. 2018 Sep;18(9):1715-1721. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2018.05.018. Epub 2018 May 21. Review. PubMed PMID: 29792997.
- Lee J, Taneja V, Vassallo R. Cigarette smoking and inflammation: cellular and molecular mechanisms. Journal of Dental Research 2012;91(2):142-9.
- Gordon R, Bloxham S. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain. Healthcare (Basel). 2016;4(2):22. Published 2016 Apr 25. doi:10.3390/healthcare4020022
- da Cruz Fernandes IM, Pinto RZ, Ferreira P, Lira FS. Low back pain, obesity, and inflammatory markers: exercise as potential treatment. J Exerc Rehabil. 2018;14(2):168-174. Published 2018 Apr 26. doi:10.12965/jer.1836070.035
When the snow starts to fly, your trusty shovel is often the only thing between you and a day spent snowed in. If used improperly, however, that same shovel could leave you with a painful (and maybe even debilitating) injury. Statistics from emergency room and primary care visits provide plenty of evidence that it happens to lots of people every year. That said, it is certainly possible to remove snow from your sidewalk and driveway safely. Here are a few techniques that will help you reduce your risk of snow shoveling injuries.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Snow Shoveling Injuries
The first thing to do when facing the cold is to make sure your body is nice and warm – warmed up, that is. Snow shoveling is an aerobic activity, so it’s wise to treat it the same way you would a jog or a swim. Walk briskly for five minutes, do 100 jumping jacks, or simply march in place. Stretch your lower back, hamstrings, and arms to make sure they’re limber and flexible. Your chiropractor can show you specific stretches that will help get your muscles and joints in shoveling shape.
Next, consider your tools. Having the right ergonomic shovel is a great help when it comes to removing stress on the spine. Choose a shovel that has a curved handle for better ergonomics. A shovel with a small, plastic blade limits the amount of weight you’ll end up lifting, reducing the risk of strain and injuries. Choose your clothing carefully as well. Good quality boots with plenty of traction will keep your feet warm and dry while reducing the risk of slipping.
Once you’re prepared, it’s time to shovel. Push the snow to the side rather than lifting it whenever possible. When you do have to lift, the key word is “straight.” Face the snow straight on, with your hips square. Bend at the knees, take on a small load, and lift with your legs while tightening your stomach muscles. Keep your back straight: don’t twist to toss the snow to the side. Instead, move your feet.
Proper pacing is another effective way to avoid injuries. If you are dealing with a foot of snow, don’t try to get all of it in a single scoop. Instead, remove it in layers from the top a few inches at a time. Take a break every fifteen minutes, or if you start to feel overworked. Stretch your arms, switch out your gloves or hat if they’ve gotten soaked, and remember to drink plenty of water.
The number one way to avoid shoveling injuries is to let something (or someone) else do the work. A snow blower is a great investment if you live in a snowy area or have lots of ground to cover. If you suffer from back pain or have a previous injury, consider hiring someone else to do the job.
If you tend to have back pain after shoveling, consider checking in with a chiropractor about it. Your chiropractor can help you identify areas where your technique could be changed for better safety and effectiveness. He or she can also suggest specific exercises and stretches that will improve your core strength and flexibility. With a little caution and know-how, you and your shovel can handle any winter challenge that comes your way.
For those who want to get fit, but find the thought of working out at a gym about as appealing as a root canal, dancing may be the answer. Dancing is a fun way to get off the couch and exercise without it actually feeling like work (most of the time, anyway). People who dance regularly point out that it can help you manage your weight, maintain your flexibility and improve your coordination. Plus it’s a social activity, so you can make new friends or enjoy old ones while you’re at it!
The TV show “Dancing with the Stars” has contributed to a sort of popular renaissance for ballroom dancing in the U.S. Dance classes teaching tango, foxtrot and salsa are quick to fill up, and the demand is growing. But did you know that, entertainment value aside, dancing may also have more health benefits—physically and mentally—than most people realize?
Dancing has been found to boost memory and help reduce your risk of dementia as you age, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The part of the brain responsible for memory, the hippocampus, normally shrinks as we grow older. Those who dance show greater volume in the hippocampus. Of 11 physical activities included in the study, only dancing reduced dementia risk.
According to Dr. Joe Verghese, a professor at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “Dance, in many ways, is a complex activity. It’s not just purely physical.” Although the exercise itself increases blood flow to the brain, dancing also involves having to memorize steps, anticipate your partner’s moves, and is a very social form of exercise.
Dancing can also relieve stress and reduce depression. The social contact that happens during dance lessons and at dance events allows you to meet new people who can become part of your support network. It has been shown to increase energy levels as well.
Dancing is a great way to get cardiovascular exercise, and it may provide even greater benefits than the cardio you get at the gym. An Italian study found that the patients with cardiovascular disease who started waltzing on a regular basis had healthier hearts, better breathing, and a more improved quality of life than patients who walked on a treadmill or biked for exercise.
Those interested in losing weight can also look to dancing. A study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that people who enrolled in a dance training program lost as much weight and increased their aerobic power as much as those who practiced biking or jogging.
Tango, which is enjoying one of the largest resurgences in ballroom dancing, can help improve your balance. Tango requires dancers to have good posture and balance while quickly executing complicated movements that often require rapid changes in direction.
Don’t worry if you feel you have two left feet. Most people can significantly improve their dancing ability with just a little practice. And it’s important not to be too critical of yourself. There are a lot of beginners out there, many of whom feel unsure about their dancing. Just relax and have fun with it, and you will find the improvement in your fitness a nice side benefit!
Zinc is the second most common mineral in the human body (after iron) and is found in every one of our cells. It plays a vital role in many of the body’s functions, so ensuring that you get enough zinc in your diet is important. It is essential for helping the body to heal and for the maintenance of a healthy immune system. It is also important is supporting the senses (taste, sight, and smell), blood clotting and healthy thyroid function.
Zinc is one of the most important minerals for fertility and general reproductive health. It is necessary for proper levels of testosterone in men and the maintenance of a healthy libido. The mineral also plays a key role in the healthy development of sperm, and abundant levels of zinc have been shown to be protective of the prostate, reducing the risk of prostate cancer. The belief that oysters have aphrodisiac properties actually does have some basis in truth. Oysters have one of the highest concentrations of zinc of any food. In women it regulates estrogen and progesterone and supports the proper maturation of the egg in preparation for fertilization.
Ensuring you have an adequate level of zinc can help reduce your risk of insulin sensitivity, one of the precursors to diabetes. It supports T-cell function, which boosts the immune system when the body is under attack by bacteria and viruses.
Zinc deficiency is not common in the developed world, but those with anorexia, alcoholics, the elderly and anyone with a malabsorption syndrome such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease is at higher risk. Zinc deficiency symptoms include frequent colds, poor wound healing, poor growth, loss of appetite, weight loss, dermatitis, psoriasis, hair loss, white spots on the nails, night blindness and depression.
Following is the recommended daily intake of zinc for different age groups:
Infants birth – 6 months: 2 mg/day
Infants 7 – 12 months: 3 mg/day
Children 1 – 3 years: 3 mg/day
Children 4 – 8 years: 5 mg/day
Children 9 – 13 years: 8 mg/day
Adolescent boys 14 – 18 years: 11 mg/day
Adolescent girls 14 – 18 years: 9 mg/day
Men 19 years and older: 11 mg/day
Women 19 years and older: 8 mg/day
Pregnant women 14 – 18 years: 12 mg/day
Pregnant women 19 years and older: 11 mg/day
Breastfeeding women 14 – 18 years: 13 mg/day
Breastfeeding women over 18 years: 12 mg/day
Children should never be given zinc supplements without first consulting with a pediatrician. If supplements are necessary, a copper supplement should be taken as well, as a high intake of zinc can deplete levels of copper.
You should be able to get adequate zinc from eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in whole foods. The body absorbs between 20% and 40% of the zinc present in food. The best sources of zinc are oysters, red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, cheese, legumes (such as soybeans, black-eyed peas, and peanuts), cooked greens and seeds (such as pumpkin and sunflower).
Do you have family members, close friends or coworkers who just can’t wait for the winter weather to get here? Maybe they’re hardcore skiers or snowboarders. Maybe they’re ice skaters or hockey players. Or perhaps they’re all-season runners looking forward to a change of pace. Whatever they’re into, this article IS NOT FOR THEM. This article is for the rest of us.
One of the great challenges faced by many people who live in four-season climates is how to stay active and get enough exercise once the temperatures start dropping. When it’s cold and wet outside, few of us have the “Just Do It” mentality of Olympic marathoner Joan Benoit. She’s inspired a well-known Nike commercial that showcases her commitment. Joan (bless her) takes one look out the door of her Maine cottage at 5:25 in the morning, sees a raging snowstorm, and goes out for her morning run anyway. That’s why Joan is an Olympian.
But no matter how important we know it is to remain active during the cold months, most of us still need a little inspiration—and a plan. To help out, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get your winter exercise this season.
Outdoor Fitness Tips
- Don’t let the cold weather keep you indoors. Bundle up, wear lots of layers, don’t forget your gloves and hat, stretch first, and then step out to enjoy the brisk air.
- Remember your New Years’ Resolutions about exercise, and try to keep to them. Just a 10-15 minute walk every day before dinner can do wonders to keep you healthy and fit.
- Buy yourself a pedometer and set a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. If you’ve got a dog, his or her walks are great opportunities to add to your daily total.
- Go for walks in the snow, or just go outside and rake leaves or do other work in the yard.
- If you’re fit (check with your doctor first), rather than lamenting that accumulation of snow, go out and shovel some of it. It’s one of the best forms of exercise you can get provided that you use proper form and take the right precautions.
- If you’re normally athletic and in good shape, consider learning a new winter sport such as skiing or snowboarding.
- If you’re more sedentary, consider lower-impact sports such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, or skating.
- Plan your social activities around your exercise plan, and allow your friends and family to get in on the fun—and the exercise—too.
Indoor Fitness Tips
- Remember the benefits of exercising at home. Consider buying a treadmill or exercise bicycle and some hand weights or stretch bands and exercise in front of your TV instead of being a couch potato.
- If you’re not really an exercise-at-home kind of person, consider joining a gym. They often have special membership prices at this time of year, and most of them also offer courses in things like yoga, martial arts or aerobics.
- At work or on the way there, take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator.
- Turn your housework into an exercise program, staying active by dancing your way through the vacuuming, mopping, and window washing. It’s more exercise than you think, and it has the extra benefit of keeping your house clean.
- If it’s really too cold to be outside, go to the mall and do some “mall-walking,” getting your exercise and your shopping taken care of at the same time.
Remember—every season offers its own unique opportunities to get healthy and stay fit. During the winter months, all it takes is a little creativity and a willingness to adapt. The change of pace can do you good!
If you haven’t been physically active in a while and you’re kick-starting a new fitness routine, we encourage you to check with your doctor first. This is particularly true if you have known health conditions or are prone to injury. We can be a great resource when it comes to designing structured exercise programs that help you meet your goals. Call or visit our office today!