Here's How Your Weight Affects Your Sciatica Pain

More than 71% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You may already know that carrying excess body weight increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. But did you also know that your weight is a risk factor for sciatica?


Sciatica is a very common cause of low back pain, and for some, the pain can be chronic and debilitating. At One Oak Medical, our multi-specialty team wants you to know how your weight affects sciatica pain and what we can do to help.

Oh, my sciatica!

Maybe you remember your dad screaming out “Oh, my sciatica!” as he rubbed the left side of his lower back, and you wondered what the heck he was talking about. 


Sciatica is a painful condition that involves your sciatic nerve. This pencil-thick nerve runs from your lumbar spine (lower part of your back) down through your buttocks and legs on both sides of your body and is responsible for motor (muscle movement) and sensory (temperature, pain) function in the lower part of your body.

A herniated disc or bone spur in your lower spine may pinch or irritate the nerve, leading to sciatica pain. The pain you experience, which usually only affects one side of your body, can range from a dull, annoying ache to an electric shock-like sensation that makes movement nearly impossible. You may also experience numbness or a burning sensation. 

Sciatica is very common and occurs in nearly 40% of people at some point in their lives. While there are many potential factors that increase your risk of sciatica, including your age and your occupation, your weight may also make you more susceptible to this painful condition. 

Sciatica pain and weight

An April 2014 meta-analysis study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology investigated the association of being overweight or obese with lumbar pain and sciatica. The researchers of the meta-analysis, which included 26 studies, found a positive association between overweight and obesity and risk of sciatica in both men and women. 

Bodyweight also increased the risk of hospitalization for sciatica, as well as the need for lumbar surgery, according to the study.

Your spine is made up of a series of bones called vertebrae, each of which is separated from its neighbors by a tough gel-like disc that acts like a cushion in between the bones. The vertebrae in your spine not only protect your spinal canal, but also allow you to twist and bend your upper body in a number of directions. Like every other joint in your body, your spine is susceptible to the general wear-and-tear that leads to the degeneration of the discs in your spine, placing you at risk of a herniated disc or bone spurs.

Being overweight or obese places additional stress and strain on your spine, which may increase your risk and rate of the spinal degeneration that leads to the damage that irritates the nerve.    

Getting relief from your sciatica pain

At One Oak Medical, we have a team of specialists who can devise a treatment plan to help you get relief from your sciatica pain and prevent a recurrence. Treatment for your sciatica may depend on the severity of your pain and your overall health, but we always initially take a conservative approach with treatments such as:

In most cases, we can help you get relief from your sciatica in six to 12 weeks. We can also work one-on-one with you to help you lose weight to reduce the stress and strain on your spine to assist in pain reduction, prevent your sciatica from turning into a chronic problem, or prevent a recurrence.

For expert care for your sciatica, call us at One Oak Medical or request an appointment online today.

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