Is Your Office Chair to Blame for Your Sciatica Pain?
Well in a sense yes, sitting in an office chair for long stretches at a time can definitely cause low back pain or make an existing back problem even worse by adding pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. If you are experiencing a sharp pain radiating down your leg, calf or foot, there may be more to blame than your office chair though, you may be experiencing a pain known as sciatica.
What is Sciatica Pain
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower spine to the buttocks, down through the legs and into the feet. It supplies sensation and strength to your leg and foot muscles. Pain along this nerve is experienced when the nerve roots that form the sciatica nerve (L4-S3) are irritated and inflamed.
This type of pain is often deep and burning, and usually occurs with certain activities and positions, such as sitting or walking. Other symptoms may include numbness, tingling and possibly weakness along the leg, calf and or toes.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
Sciatica can be caused by bone spurs and disc herniations or bulges, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis as well as conditions in the pelvis.
Other causes of this type of pain include:
- Foraminal stenosis (narrowing of the hole through which the spinal nerve exits due to bone spurs, arthritis, or disc herniations)
- Nerve root injuries
- Scar tissue from previous spinal surgery that is impacting the nerve root
Sciatica, is actually a term commonly used to describe radicular pain along the sciatic nerve, but it’s not an actual diagnosis. To receive an actual diagnosis a medical professional will review a combination of a patient’s history, conduct a physical exam and order imaging like a MRI that will typically show the pressure on the nerve root.
Treatment of Sciatica (Lumbar Radiculopathy)
A course of nonsurgical treatment (such as physical therapy, medications, and various spinal injections) for six to eight weeks is usually recommended. Core strengthening exercise to target the underlying cause of the sciatic pain should be part of any treatment program.
That’s because sciatica exercises can help reduce the pain in the short term and help to prevent future pain. Without exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures are less able to support the back and can lead to back injury and strain, which causes additional pain. In addition, active exercise is also important for the health of the spinal discs.
Typical sciatica exercise programs as suggested by Spine-Health include:
- Stretching – Regardless of the diagnosis, most types of sciatica will benefit from a regular routine of hamstring stretching. The hamstrings are muscles located in the back of the thigh. Overly tight hamstrings increase the stress on the low back and often aggravate or even cause some of the conditions that result in sciatica.
- Core Muscle Strength- Many sciatica exercises serve to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles in order to provide more support for the back and reduce the stress on the discs and joints. Stretching exercises for sciatica target muscles that cause pain when they are tight and inflexible. When patients engage in a regular program of gentle strengthening and stretching exercises, they can recover more quickly from a flare up of sciatica and are less likely to experience future episodes of pain.
- Aerobic Exercises – In addition to specific sciatica exercises, aerobic conditioning may also be encouraged for general body fitness. Walking is an excellent form of exercise for the low back because it is relatively low impact but can provide all the benefits of an aerobic workout. If possible, it is best to gradually progress to doing up to three miles of exercise walking at a brisk pace each day.
- Exercise Correctly – Doing the right exercises but doing them without proper form can make the exercises relatively ineffective, and possibly may lead to continued or increased pain. It is generally advisable to learn the exercises under the guidance of an appropriately trained health practitioner, such as a physical therapist.
- Epidural Steroid Injections – A common treatment option for many forms of low back pain and leg pain. They are an integral part of the non-surgical management of sciatica and low back pain. The goal of the injection is to reduce the inflammation of the nerve roots, thus relieving the pain. At times the injection alone is sufficient to provide relief, but commonly an epidural steroid injection is used in combination with a comprehensive rehabilitation program to provide additional benefit.
If nonsurgical treatment does not alleviate the pain, decompressive surgery may be recommended. This surgery typically provides relief for a majority of patients. For patients with severe leg pain or other serious symptoms such as numbness or progressive muscle weakness, surgery may be recommended prior to six weeks of non-surgical treatment.
For more information on lower back pain or for any other pain relief procedures, call the Jacksonville Spine Center for an appointment. Jacksonville Spine Center has two convenient locations in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Jacksonville Spine Center is also a Veterans Choice Program. Call 904-223-3321 to get started today.