There are approximately 248 million back pain sufferers in the United States. If you have an inactive lifestyle, you are 3 times more likely to be one of them. To avoid joining the ranks of those who live with back aches and pains, keep your muscles strong with physical activity–especially during pregnancy. The changes in your body during pregnancy demand more from your muscles while an inactive lifestyle can hinder your muscles from rising to the challenge and meeting these needs of your pregnancy. With weaker and stiffer muscles, an inactive pregnancy can cause sciatica to sneak up on you. Inactivity and sciatica, there is a connection.
Inactivity and Sciatica: What’s Happening Inside Your Inactive Body
As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you use it. Jogging, playing sports, taking the dog out for walks, biweekly trips to the gym–anything that involves moving and using your muscles and bones–helps keep them young, strong and healthy, exercising them so they maintain and build stamina. If you deny your muscles and bones movement, you are essentially leaving them to waste away. Muscle and bone tissue can deteriorate; bones can loss their elasticity and become brittle and bound to break; underused muscles can become stiff from inactivity and thus more vulnerable to strain or injury. You may also lose muscle function, as ignored muscles are less flexible and cannot be pushed as hard before damage occurs. When you experience a shrinking or weakening of muscles do to a lack of exercise, this is known as muscle atrophy, or more specifically, disuse atrophy. This degeneration of your muscles and bones can, however, be reversed if you pay them move attention, providing them with a regular exercise routine and physical activity–anything to get your muscles back into the swing of things.
The Cost of being a Coach Potato during Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your muscles need to be at their strongest to:
Handle the Extra Baby Weight: During pregnancy, you rely on your muscles and bones to support and handle the extra weight you are carrying from your growing baby. As your stomach gets larger, your center of gravity is destabilized and more strain is put on the muscles and bones in your lower back. If they cannot handle the demand because they have already been weakened by your inactive lifestyle, you are more at risk of physical injury during your pregnancy, which can be accompanied by sciatica.
Prepare you for Labor: In addition, there are changes in your bones and muscles occurring during pregnancy due to the release of pregnancy hormones. Pregnancy hormones like relaxin loosen and relax your ligaments as well as shift your bones, especially in the pelvic area, in order to ready you for labor. Because these normal and necessary muscles and bone adjustments and reconfigurations occur in pregnancy, your muscles and bones need to be at their strongest–something they are not if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.
If you muscles and bones are not able to keep up with the needs of your pregnancy, it is a recipe for sciatica; you are more prone to health problems that affect your spine and lower back during your pregnancy. Because your muscles and bones are in a weaker state, they will also be slower to heal from any damage they incur during pregnancy. It can be a vicious cycles, so keeping and remaining active while you are pregnant could spare you from added sciatica pain.
Are Your Active Enough? Take the Lifestyle Test.
Challenge your lifestyle. If you can agree with the majority of the checkpoints below, your inactive lifestyle may be putting you at a greater risk of sciatica during pregnancy:
- Prolonged sitting
- Lack of daily physical activity (e.g. a consistent exercise routine)
- Preference for inside activities (e.g. television, computer, etc.) rather than taking to the outdoors
- Hobbies that include stationary tasks, such as video games and sewing
- Overreliance on technology (i.e. gaming, communicating via internet, text, etc.)
Because an overactive lifestyle can also put you at risk for sciatica during pregnancy, it is all about balance. To reduce your chances of experiencing sciatica, increase your daily physical activity with exercises and more lively hobbies without overdoing it.