Perhaps youíre already aware that a number of lifestyle factors increase a personís risk of developing sciatica, including smoking and obesity. However, new research reveals that cycling and walking could have an equally effective opposite effect. A recent study followed a group of over 35,000 people for up to 30 years. It discovered that the risk of being hospitalized for sciatica was increased by 33% if people smoked or were obese, while regularly commuting to work by bicycle or on foot lowered their risk by 33%.
The Risks Involved in Developing Sciatica
The study reported that up to 5% of people suffer from sciatica, an often painful condition. Sciatica normally originates from a compressed nerve root and herniated disc, which causes shooting pains along the sciatic nerve. This extends from the lower back right down the back of a personís legs. Even though it rarely leads to hospitalization or surgery, itís often considered a more severe and long-lasting source of low back pain. Four long-term studies were analyzed by the team in Finland, with a total of 1,259 hospitalizations for sciatica occurring during the follow-up time of 12-30 years. The researchers looked at various risk factors, including occupation, education, sex, age, obesity, body mass index, and smoking, along with the duration, intensity, and frequency of physical activity. Although smokers saw an increased risk of 33%, former smokers didnít share this same risk. Furthermore, the risk of hospitalization was increased by 36% in obese patients Ė with abdominal fat increasing the risk to 41%. However, regardless of any other activity or the body weight of the patient, commuting to work via bicycle or on foot reduced their risk by 33%.
Speaking about the study, lead author, Dr. Rahman Shiri, said they were surprised to see that no effect on hospitalization was witnessed by any other form of leisure time physical activities. However, they believe this may be due to the fact that regular, moderate activities like cycling and walking donít add strain to the back as opposed to higher-intensity exercises that will. Although the study was limited by the fact that it only used self-reported data and couldnít verify additional health factors for sciatica hospitalization, it does emphasize the benefits of moving around frequently, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. Furthermore, studies have indicated that sciatica patients noticed a significant improvement when they underwent a number of treatments, including spinal manipulation. This process is carried out by a licensed doctor of chiropractic to reduce the nerve irritability that causes pain, muscle spasm, inflammation, and other symptoms associated with sciatica. If your sciatica is causing you discomfort and pain, contact your local chiropractor today.