Sciatica is caused by some type of pressure placed on the sciatic nerve, which originates in the lower back and moves downward. This pressure can come from sources that might include a herniated disc, inflamed muscles, or issues with a vertebra in the lower back area. Walking normally relieves pressure on the sciatic nerve, but putting one foot in front of the other could also contribute to discomfort if you’re not careful about your walking posture. Here’s why.
Exercise is generally good for sciatica management, but walking incorrectly can place too much stress on the lower back and supporting muscles, irritating the sciatic nerve in the process. Incorrect walking posture can also contribute to:
• Spinal misalignment
• Fatigued/tired spinal muscles
• Inflammation that irritates the sciatic nerve
Certain walking patterns have the potential to overly stress the lower spine’s bones, joints, and supporting muscles. The patterns that tend to boost the load on spinal parts in a way that contributes to or exacerbates sciatica symptoms are discussed briefly below.
This is a walking posture where you thrust your abdomen forward and exaggerate your spine’s lower curvature (lordotic posture). Excessive back curving can overstress spinal (facet) joints and make some spine-supporting muscles weak from underactivity, which can place added stress on the thigh muscles.
Referred to as a kyphotic posture, hunching as you walk thrusts your chest forward. This walking posture is bad for the sciatic nerve because it places too much stress on the abdominal and core spine-supporting muscles.
There’s such as a thing as overdoing it with an attempt to walk with “perfect posture.” What you’re doing with this walking posture is walking with your back too flat so the natural curve is reduced. This posture places excessive stress on lower spine vertebrae, and muscles in your hips, buttocks, and thighs may also become weak or tired as you walk, which can ultimately cause long-term issues that may require treatment such as spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles residents should be careful to avoid keeping their backs flat when they walk.
Lower back muscles can become tense enough to irritate your sciatic nerve if you have what’s called a “swayback” posture as you walk. What you’re doing with pelvis tipping is shifting your upper spine backward as your pelvis moves forward.
Fortunately, it’s possible to adjust your walking posture so it’s less strenuous on anything that could irritate your sciatic nerve. Gain more control over your stride length, walking speed, and spinal alignment by taking these three steps:
1. Keep your head and ears above your shoulders as you walk to achieve a neutral spine position.
2. Walk so you land on your mid-foot, and roll forward onto your toes before pushing off to take your next step. This adjustment shortens your strides and avoids unnecessary lower spine stress.
3. Slow down your pace and take shorter steps that have less impact to reduce spinal stress.
Also, remember to actively engage your abdominal muscles and breathe in a rhythmic pattern as you walk. Even after you make an effort to improve your walking posture, take breaks if you walk long distances, and adjust your walking pace if you experience flare-ups. Finally, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon if you have sciatica-related discomfort that’s getting worse or you need more specific tips for managing symptoms.
The spinal health experts at The Spine Institute know what it takes to keep your spine healthy, and that includes taking care of your posture and the structures that support your spine. If you’re experiencing pain in your back or neck, it may be due to poor posture, so see us for diagnosis and treatment. Call one of our friendly representatives at 310-828-7757 today to schedule a consultation.