Losing Weight to Relieve Sciatica: The Truth


Back pain has been and will continue to be the number one cause for temporary disability among workers all over the world. Since the back is a complex and interconnected system, especially if you’re overweight. This leads people to ask: Will losing weight help relieve sciatica? there are a lot of ways it can cause you pain. And sciatica is one of the most common,

Yes. According to studies, overweight people have a higher risk of developing sciatica. And likewise, losing weight can help relieve sciatica and prevent it in the long run. This is because the more weight you carry, the more stress on your spine and joints, which can irritate the sciatic nerve. 

Sciatica Causes and Symptoms

To understand how sciatica is affected by body weight, you need to understand how it works. Here’s a quick breakdown of the causes and symptoms.

  • The sciatic nerve runs from the lumbar spine, through the glute, down the back of the thigh, and attached to the underside of the foot.
  • The sciatic nerve usually becomes compressed or irritated where it exits the lower spine. This can be caused by a bulging or herniated disc, a narrowing of the spinal canal, or bone spurs.
  • Symptoms include a sharp pain radiating from the lower back and down the back of the leg. It can also cause tingling, numbness, and weakness in the affected area.

Can Being Overweight Cause Sciatica?

Yes, being overweight can cause sciatica indirectly. When the human body carries more weight than it is designed for, it can cause problems other than the obvious heart disease or diabetes. That extra weight also puts stress on the joints in the body— especially those in the spine. Unfortunately, the lower back takes the brunt of this stress, which is why sciatica is a problem among overweight individuals.

The stress of extra weight slowly pulls the spine slowly out of alignment and can compress the discs between the vertebrae, which can then compress the sciatic nerve, causing pain and discomfort.

Can Sciatica Be Cured by Weight Loss?

We need to be clear that weight loss is not a “cure” for sciatica. Weight loss will almost surely help relieve sciatica pain, but it is not a cure. There are other issues at work that weight loss exacerbates. These issues, combined with excess weight, are more likely to cause sciatica.

So, in order to experience long-term relief from sciatica, weight loss is only one step in the right direction. It’s a very big step, but it’s still only one. Fortunately, the best and most effective ways to lose weight can also help relieve sciatica pain, such as eating healthy and exercising.

Short-term relief from sciatica is also worth mentioning here, as pain relief is essential to getting you back on your feet. As such, there are several other things you can do to relieve sciatic nerve pain in the short-term, including massage therapy, home remedies, yoga, and chiropractic care.

How to Exercise With Sciatica

How to Exercise With Sciatica?

Regular exercise is not only beneficial for weight loss, but it also helps reduce the symptoms and likelihood of sciatica in other ways. Exercise can help sciatica because there are many things that make sciatica worse, such as:

  • Sitting too much.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • Wearing shoes with inadequate support.
  • Lifting improperly.

Regular exercise is the best antidote to sitting too much and living a sedentary lifestyle. But exercise can also help relieve sciatica pain in the moment. Sounds counter intuitive, right? The last thing you want to do with sciatica is exercise, but you should. As long as you’re doing the right exercises.

The overall key is to choose exercises that don’t cause you pain. If you can’t run, try swimming instead. The important thing to do is to stay active. Avoiding exercise will only make your sciatica worse.

It’s important to remember that yoga is great for sciatica and your health in general. Many people find that 30 minutes of yoga 3 times a week along with another form of exercise twice a week gives them great results.

Weight Training With Sciatica

If you’re used to weight training but are unsure of how it will work with sciatica, look no further. For most people, weight training with sciatica is still entirely possible. It’s just a matter of keeping a few things in mind and avoiding those exercises that will cause you pain.

  • Form and Posture

Your weight training form is vitally important when you have sciatica. Practice slow reps with special attention to form. Your posture is also important. Keep a neutral spine and avoid exercises in which you’ll have to round your lower back.

  • Avoid Overhead and Straight Leg Exercises

Until your sciatica pain reduces, avoid overhead lifting exercises and straight leg exercises. Both can cause sciatica pain to flare up. You’ll probably want to avoid any intensive ab exercises that require you to do crunches, as well.

  • Know Your Limit

When you have sciatica, your body is trying to heal itself, so don’t overdo it. While some exercise is beneficial, too much can only prolong the healing process. Hold back on doing what you normally would until your sciatica pain is gone.

How to Lose Belly Fat With Sciatica

Losing belly fat with sciatica is entirely possible, but it’s not possible overnight. In fact, it takes sustained effort to lose belly fat with or without sciatica. But if you do suffer from sciatic nerve pain, the effort will be well worth it when sciatica fades away. To lose belly fat with sciatica, you need to concentrate on three things:

  • Nutrition

Eating whole foods, a plant-based diet, and staying away from processed and sugary foods.

  • Exercise

Whether it is the weight training mentioned above, yoga, or cardio. In fact, a mixture of all three is probably best. But really, whatever regimen you can stick with for 150 minutes a week is best.

  • Lifestyle 

This includes your everyday posture, improving your workstation, sitting less, and limiting the things that exacerbate your back.

Chiropractic Care for Weight Loss and Sciatica

The full-body approach outlined in simple terms above is how chiropractors treat sciatica. Chiropractic care can also help relieve sciatica pain quickly with massage, spinal adjustments, and physical therapy modalities. This is why chiropractic care is ideal for those who have a hard time making these nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle changes on their own. One of the major services often overlooked that chiropractors offer is nutritional and lifestyle tips.

In fact, numerous studies show that chiropractic care promotes weight loss, in addition to helping patients reduce pain, improve posture, and increase well-being. And they do this in a safe, non-invasive, drug-free manner.

Sciatica and Unexplained Weight Loss

On a final note, there are rare occasions where back pain caused by a serious medical issue is confused with sciatica. If you experience unexplained weight loss, meaning you lose 10 or more pounds in 3 months or less, you should seek medical attention right away. Sometimes what seems like sciatica may be something else, and unexplained weight loss is a sign that something is wrong. Sciatica by itself doesn’t generally cause weight loss such as this.


Dr. Brent Wells

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells is an actively practicing chiropractic physician that has personally led over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles since 1998. He is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Anchorage and Juneau where he brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

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