If you’re over a certain age or if you’re an active adult, you’ve likely experienced back pain caused by sciatica.
At your desk, at the gym, just picking up the post in the morning can become an ordeal, after which you hold a general area of your back where you think the pain, might be, could be, probably isn’t, maybe is, coming from.
That’s the problem with back pain, it’s hard to nail down and treat. That’s why it’s always smart to have some extra support to give you that helping hand to go about your daily life.
A back support or brace is just what you’re looking for to help that posture and correct any problems, but before we recommend you some excellent back support belts, let’s take a quick look at exactly what sciatica is, shall we?
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition where pain, weakness or altered sensation can be experienced in the buttock, hamstring, calf or foot due to irritation of the Sciatic nerve. The Sciatic nerve runs from the lower part of the spine down the back of both legs to the feet, forming what is effectively an ‘electrical cable’ to and from the brain. Sciatica symptoms vary from a mild cramping or tightening sensation in the hamstring or calf muscles (that can be interpreted as the pre-cursor to a strain) to a constant shooting pain in the buttock, hamstring and down to the foot (a phenomenon known as referred pain).
What causes Sciatica?
Usually caused by irritation of a ‘nerve root’ located in the lower back, Sciatica is a form of ‘Radiculopathy’ (pain, weakness or altered sensation along the distribution of a nerve), although there are other causes of Sciatica. Sciatica can seriously affect the health and quality of life of patients and a staggering 40% of people will suffer from some degree of Sciatica in their lifetime.
Sciatica and the spine
Although the cause of Sciatica often lies in the spine, not all sufferers will experience back pain and symptoms can be variable. The problem can manifest as back pain with leg pain, or leg pain only. Sciatica can be caused by problems with the Facet Joints in the lower back; problems with the Sacro Iliac Joint; or through irritation of the Sciatic nerve in the buttock (Piriformis Syndrome), but the major cause of Sciatica from the lower back is a Herniated Disc (‘slipped disc’).
The discs are located between each of the vertebra that make up the spinal column. These discs consist of a tough outer fibrous layer that surrounds a gel-like nucleus centre. Repeated over-use during prolonged sitting, bending, lifting, and sporting activities can lead to degeneration of the outer layer of the disc. If this degeneration is sufficient, the nucleus material is liable to prolapse out of the disc.
As the gel material leaks out of the disc, the onset of pain may be sudden and severe. If the direction of the prolapse is back and to the side, it may press on what is called a ‘nerve root’. Most commonly, the nerve roots affected produce pain in the Sciatic nerve, resulting in Sciatica. This can produce pain in the buttock, the hamstrings, back of the knee, the calf or the heel
Originally the Herniated disc model had been regarded as the sole cause of pain in Sciatica. However, more recent clinical observations have shown that this may not be the case. For example, Sciatica is not present in some patients who have an obvious Herniated disc on an MRI scan. In addition, the severity of Sciatica symptoms is often not related to the size of the Herniated disc. These findings would suggest that other mechanisms apart from mechanical compression may be responsible for the symptoms. Increasing evidence from research studies would suggest that inflammation of areas of the nerve root may be involved.
For a more in depth look at Sciatica, check out our dedicated page by clicking here!
Best Back Supports for Sciatica
PhysioRoom Elite Sports Back Brace
This soft-to-the-touch back support features a 3-dimensional multi-filament construction, and 6 metal stays, which provide comfortable support, compression, heat retention and back pain relief.
A combination of elastic loops and hooks, plus two removable side panels, allows you to adjust the level of support and compression. The extended back panel design gives excellent support to the spine and the option of removing the metal stays to use the brace as an abdominal binder.
PhysioRoom Magnetic Lower Back Support Belt
The PhysioRoom.com Magnetic Waist Support provides support and light compression to the lower back region, which reduces pressure on the discs in the lower back – this can reduce the symptoms of sciatica.
There are 10 strip sections that each feel have 5 button like magnets.
Suspected sciatica may be accompanied by painful back muscle spasms. The combination of neoprene material and magnets used in the support provides therapeutic heat and improves circulation, which relieves muscle spasms in the back and breaks the cycle of back pain.
PhysioRoom Elite Back Support
High grade, closed cell neoprene, with a nylon shell and a terry cotton lining, reinforced by four metal stays, provides the best possible combination of support, compression, heat retention and comfort. Twin pulls on either side give easy adjustment and can be custom tightened to provide exactly the right amount of support and back pain relief.
The support provided by the metal stays improves your posture and restricts movement to aid treatment of back problems such as a slipped disc, degenerative disc disease and sciatica.
The heat provided by the high quality neoprene can help to ease back muscle spasms and lower back pain associated with a herniated disc and spinal stenosis.
Donjoy Comfortform Donjoy Comfortform Back Support Belt
The Donjoy Comfortform Back Support as the name suggests provides comfort to the lumbar region of the spine through a moulded compression pad. This latex-free belt uses dual overlapping pull straps to promote correct posture and improve spinal alignment while protecting against sprains and strains.
The low profile design features silicone strips to limit movement and to ensure a comfortable fitting brace which can be worn during work-based or sporting activities to help prevent injury.