For patients dealing with issues from sciatica and high heels, keeping the heel height under two inches can help
As many as 43% of people will develop sciatica at some point in their lifetime. For some, the pain is severe enough to limit their participation in everyday activities, even reducing their quality of life. One recognized trigger of this pain that often extends down the back of the leg is the combination of pain from sciatica and high heels.
While choosing lower-heeled shoes can provide some relief, another option is to combine chiropractic care with inserts, enabling patients to continue to enjoy their favorite pair of heels without instigating sciatic issues.
Sciatica and high heels
Wearing shoes with heels shifts the body’s weight forward. This changes the curvature of the spine, placing more stress on the lower back, and also stretching the hamstring muscles that run down the back of the upper thigh. Both factors can trigger inflammation and irritation of the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling that often radiates from the lower back to the foot.
Seemingly, the solution for easing this pain is to avoid high-heeled footwear altogether. For some patients, this is an effective option. Others may not be as willing to let go of their favorite heels, even if it means a reduction in sciatic pain. Individuals in the latter group may benefit from a combination protocol of chiropractic care and shoe inserts to combat sciatica and high heels.
Chiropractic for sciatica
Chiropractic helps support sciatic nerve health by restoring proper spinal alignment. If the nerve is pinched or compressed due to spinal misalignment, manipulation can correct this issue. Proper alignment also enables the body to more naturally heal any inflammation or irritation that is provoking sciatic issues.
Research suggests that chiropractic is more effective for resolving this musculoskeletal issue than other treatment remedies. For example, in one study, 60 patients with L5-S1 disc herniation resulting in unilateral lumbosacral radiculopathy were split into two groups. The first group received treatment via neural mobilization techniques. The second group received lumbar manipulation. At six weeks post-treatment, the lumbar manipulation group had greater improvements in leg pain, disability, and nerve root compression. Results were published in the European Journal of Scientific Research.
Another study, this one published in Manual Therapy, indicates that other factors may contribute to patient satisfaction and treatment when seeking chiropractic care for back-related leg pain. Researchers learned that patients valued the quality of their interactions with the health care provider and the sharing of important information, citing that both contributed to their satisfaction levels and made the treatment more worthwhile.
Easing sciatic pain with shoe inserts
Recommending that patients utilize shoe inserts in addition to regular chiropractic can further ease their sciatic pain. Shoe inserts work by helping to correct structural or functional issues that are contributing to spinal misalignment or poor weight distribution.
Research indicates that shoe inserts can be even more beneficial for patients with different leg lengths. In one study, wearing insoles designed to correct leg-length discrepancy by 70% for eight hours per day reduced the intensity of the participants’ sciatic pain. They also reported a reduction in low back pain, improved physical function, and a reduced likelihood that they took sick leave during the following year.
Shoe advice for greater sciatic nerve health
For patients dealing with issues from sciatica and high heels, keeping the heel height under two inches can help. The shoe should also fit properly to prevent the feet from sliding forward, causing the spine to compensate by shifting the body’s weight forward as well.
Limiting the time spent in high-heeled shoes is also beneficial. This could involve wearing flatter heels when traveling to and from work or when running errands, saving the higher heels for during the workday, or wearing them only when attending important meetings.
The type of insole used will vary based on shoe type. A heel that fully encloses the foot would allow for a full-sized insole whereas a lighter insole or an insole under just the pads of the foot would be more appropriate for a heel that leaves more of the foot exposed.