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Reducing Your Risk of Low Back Pain and Sciatica
by Debra Wood, RN
You can reduce your risk of developing low back pain and sciatica by reducing the stress on your back. Guidelines for reducing stress on your back include:
Poor posture and slouching can put pressure on your lower back. Stand and sit straight, and avoid sitting up in bed. If possible, find an ergonomic specialist to help teach you good posture and body mechanics, as well as help you redesign your workplace to reduce strain on your back.
Maintenance of good weight is important for your overall health. While scientific evidence is inconclusive as to how much obesity contributes to back pain in general, extra pounds can increase pressure on the spinal muscles and discs. Follow the dietary and exercise plan recommended by your doctor. To lose weight you have to consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthy weight, eat an equal number of calories to those you expend. Even more exercise than minimum recommendations may be required to lose weight (see below).
An aerobic program will improve your physical fitness, strengthen your back muscles, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Choose exercises or activities that you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. For most people, this could include walking or participating in another aerobic activity for 30 minutes per day. The 2008 USDA Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report recommends at minimum two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, and strengthening exercises at least two days a week. Exercise also can help you manage stress. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
If You Smoke, Quit
Smoking may contribute to degeneration of the discs in the spine. Also, smokers risk possible re-injury to the back during a coughing attack. Smoking can adversely affect healing if you are having a back surgery. To heal properly, you should quit smoking 2 weeks before a spinal fusion and stay tobacco-free for six months afterwards.
Stress can increase muscle tension. Take time out to relax, exercise, and practice relaxation techniques. If you need support or assistance in reducing stress, you may want to try some of the following techniques:
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Accessed October 26, 2008.
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Updated November 3, 2015. Accessed December 16, 2015.
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Shiri R, Lallukka T, Karppinen J, et al. Obesity as a risk factor for sciatica: a meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2014;179(8):929-37.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Laura Lei-Rivera, DPT
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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