Sciatica and Obesity

Does weight gain have anything to do with sciatica and will losing weight make it go away?

There was a time, long ago, when being overweight was actually a good thing. When daily life was focused almost solely on survival and a steady supply of food was rarely a certainty, having reserves stored as body fat could well mean the difference between living or dying. Our ability to do this may have been what gave us the genetic edge we needed for survival as a species.

Fortunately, we did survive, and we have evolved. For most of us in the developed world, we can generally take our next meal for granted and no longer need to tuck away a little extra fat. Unfortunately, the tendency to easily store fat has changed from being an asset to a problem of near epidemic proportions. Every day we hear about the health consequences of being overweight. These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis and a host of other serious conditions. One that you may not hear so much about but can be painful enough to keep you awake at night and affect daily activities is sciatica.

What Is Sciatica

Sciatica is not actually a condition: it is a symptom. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and is made up of nerve roots that originate in the spinal cord. It begins in the lumbar area of the back and runs down the leg, finally ending in the foot. When something happens to irritate the roots leading to the nerve or compress or put pressure on the nerve, the resulting symptom is the pain that we call sciatica.

The pain of sciatica is typically felt on only one side of the body at a time and is sometimes experienced as a tingling or numbness, but it can also be a deep, intense aching. At other times, the sensation that radiates down the leg can feel like a sharp electrical jolt. Whether an ache or a jolt, the level of pain can be quite severe.

The most common cause for sciatica is a herniated or ruptured disc, which is when the outer shell tears or ruptures and the gelatinous substance that makes up the nucleus of the disc pushes outward and ends up putting pressure on the nerve. The narrowing of the spinal column, known as lumbar spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis, which is when one vertebra slips out of position and moves forward over another vertebra, are also fairly common causes of sciatica.
Is obesity another risk factor for sciatica? Excess weight places additional stress on the structural makeup of the body and the lower limb joints. The direct impact on spinal anatomy and degeneration is actually less clear.

While weight gain, obesity and sciatica may not be directly related, the impact on degeneration of the knee and hip joints is more clear. As importantly, your risk for developing heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes all increase when carrying too much body weight.

At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physicians are committed to more than just treating your symptoms. We strongly believe that each individual is best served through an integrative treatment plan. We focus on finding the underlying cause and providing non-surgical, evidenced based solutions tailored to your specific condition and needs. If you are experiencing sciatica or have questions about any of our treatment methods or services, we invite you to schedule a consultation by using our convenient online form by clicking here.