Extended time in a car can cause sciatica

St George Chiropractor

The seats of most cars do not fully support the lumbar spine. Sitting for more than two hours can cause sciatica.  I was reminded of this on a recent road trip.  My family went to Logan UT for the weekend.  The 6 hour car ride was peppered with stops so we could get out and ‘stretch our legs’.  In reality, we were stopping in order to reduce our risk of sciatica.

Sciatica is a term used to describe a painful irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The nerve begins in the lower back and runs down the mid-gluteal into the mid portion of the leg. Most sciatica pain is felt in the middle portion of the buttocks and some radiation down into the leg.

There are several causes of sciatica. They include compression of the sciatic nerve roots from swelling, tissue congestion around the spine, disc herniation, and inflammatory conditions resulting from spasm of the piriformis muscle. The piriformis lies directly on top of the sciatic nerve and irritation of the muscle can effect the sciatic nerve, resulting in sciatica.

The issue with long car rides and sciatica is related to the Batson Venous Plexus.  It is a network of blood vessels around the lumbar spinal bones.  When we are sedentary (like sitting in a car for 5 hours), those blood vessels can become distended from excessive back pressure, causing leaking and swelling of the lumbar nerve tissues.

The same mechanism is at work on our bodies when we sit for too long in an office environment.  If we have a job that requires long stints in a chair, we need to make sure we are up and moving periodically to avoid the congestion of the tissues.

There are several different approaches to treating sciatica. As a chiropractor, I have been treating sciatica pain since 1995. My approaches include the following:

  • Reduce the inflammation using ultrasound therapy
  • Restore proper joint mechanics with specific manipulation
  • Teach the patient how to properly stretch and apply home therapy
  • Reduce the muscle spams using
    • manual therapies, like flexion-distraction
    • electrical muscle stim
    • stretching

The Innova Pain Clinic in St George is located just West of Barnes and Noble (the Red Cliffs Mall).  Our clinical focus is on pain syndromes such as sciatica.   If you are suffering from lower back pain or sciatica, please call us and schedule and appointment.

Dr. Andrew White | St George Chiropractor

Featured image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and sephirot17

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