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Is sciatic nerve pain worse in summer?

Sciatic Nerve PainSciatic Nerve Pain & Summer photo by Robert Crouse-Baker / cc 2.0

Sciatic nerve pain and summer

Many people complain of greater back pain in the winter, when cold weather can chill you to the bone and make muscles tighter. But, for those who have pain of the sciatic nerve, the summer months may be just as unpleasant. While it may seem strange that direct heat from a heating pad can give you some relief for sciatic nerve pain but hot weather can have the opposite effect, it’s due to a couple of factors:

Increased activity

Chances are, your activity level rises as the sun gets stronger, with kids out of school and all kinds of summertime fun calling your name. Whether that means long periods of sitting in uncomfortable chairs at baseball or soccer games, tubing or some other type of water activity, jarring amusement park rides (There’s a reason for that pre-ride warning for those with back pain after all!), or spending extra time in your garden tending to your flowers and herbs, proper preparation can help keep sciatic nerve pain away:

  • Whenever possible, make your seat work for you. If you’ve been living with sciatic nerve pain, you probably already know how to make adjustments to your desk chair and other places you sit for periods of time. If you’re heading out to a kids’ baseball or soccer game, you may want to invest in a more comfortable sideline seat that provides some cushion and support; if you’re attending a pro game, check ahead with the ballpark to see if you can bring your own seat cushion.
  • Stretch often—but only with your spine doctor’s permission. Stretching too strenuously with sciatic nerve pain may actually worsen your condition. Prevention recommends several exercises to “help take pressure off your sciatic nerve without having to even get out of bed,” including a knee-to-chest hug and a press-up extension.
  • Try not a hunch over or crouch when gardening. A stool or a pair of kneepads can help keep you comfortable, but don’t forget to take regular breaks to work out the kinks or keep them away altogether.
  • Take a walk! Many leading back doctors recommend walking for those who are suffering from sciatic nerve pain or other back ailments.
  • Go for a swim. “Not only does aerobic exercise such as swimming promote the release of your body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals known as endorphins, it may also help to reduce pain by taking pressure off your spinal nerves,” said Livestrong. “Swimming and other forms of water exercise promote feelings of weightlessness and buoyancy that counter the effects of gravity on your body while strengthening your muscles and keeping you physically active.”

Travel

Going on a road trip this summer? Or maybe your getaway involves an altitude of 30,000 feet instead. Either way, you could be in for some sciatic nerve pain thanks to seats that aren’t as comfortable or supportive as you’d like them to be. There are several tips that can help you remain comfortable in the car, or, at least, mitigate the pain, including adjusting the seat and using the lumbar support.

There isn’t just one trick for surviving airplane trips, and they don’t all take place on the plane, said Conde Nast Traveler:

  • “Stay on top of your workout routine. This is especially key in the week or so leading up to your trip. If you’ve been inactive for a long period of time, your back muscles will be more likely to spasm when you’re forced to sit scrunched into tight quarters.”
  • Don’t overpack. “Lugging around heavy carry-ons puts you at risk for straining the muscles in your back,” they said. Heave that bag over your head to get it into the bin and…uh oh, here comes the sciatic nerve pain again. If you must bring everything you own, “ask a strong travel companion or aflight attendant to help lift your bags into the overhead compartment.”
  • Pack your meds in your personal item. You’ll want to have any pain medication or anti-inflammatories on hand in case of a flare up of sciatic nerve pain.
  • Bring a doctor’s note. “If you have a serious back condition or you’ve recently had back surgery, a note from the doctor and a call to the airline in advance may help you secure a seat that has more room,” they said. At the very least, talking to the gate attendants ahead of time may afford you the opportunity to board early if you need more time to get situated on the plane.

Humidity

Rising humidity can affect those who have sciatic nerve pain or joint pain in the winter. But, this problem can also plague people who are suffering with back pain in the summer. In high humidity, there is the likelihood of rain, which means there’s a low pressure system affecting the atmosphere. Low pressure systems are another cause of joint pain and sciatic nerve pain, regardless of the season. Anyone who is prone to inflammation may find the summer months uncomfortable and may also find themselves in greater pain.

There are a few ways you can cope with weather-related symptoms, including:

  • Stay inside in air-conditioned areas where the humidity level is lower. Using vent fans in kitchens and especially in laundry areas and after baths and showers in bathrooms can also help.
  • Target inflammation with ice therapy

If it’s time to get rid of sciatic nerve pain once and for all, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain. Minimally invasive surgical techniques mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.

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