For patients struggling with sciatica and high heels, keeping the heel height within two inches can help
Up to 43% of people will develop sciatica at some point in their lives. For some, the pain is severe enough to limit their participation in daily activities, even reducing their quality of life. A recognized trigger for this pain that often extends down the back of the leg is the combination of sciatica pain and high heels.
While choosing low-heeled shoes can provide some relief, another option is to combine chiropractic care with inserts, allowing patients to continue enjoying their favorite pair of heels without causing sciatic problems.
Sciatica and high heels
Wearing heeled shoes shifts the weight of the body forward. This changes the curvature of the spine, which puts more pressure on the lower back and also stretches the hamstring muscles that run down the back of the upper thigh. Both factors can trigger inflammation and irritation of the sciatic nerve, leading to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling that often radiates from the lower back to the foot.
Apparently, the solution to alleviating this pain is to avoid high-heeled shoes 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 reduced sciatic pain. People in the latter group may benefit from a protocol combining 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 problem. Proper alignment also allows the body to more naturally heal any inflammation or irritation that is causing sciatic issues.
Research suggests that chiropractic is more effective in solving this musculoskeletal problem than other therapeutic remedies. For example, in one study, 60 patients with L5-S1 disc herniation resulting in unilateral lumbosacral radiculopathy were divided 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 improvement in leg pain, disability, and nerve root compression. The 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 healthcare provider and the sharing of important information, citing that it contributed to their level of satisfaction and made treatment more worthwhile.
Relieving sciatic pain with shoe inserts
Recommending patients to use shoe inserts in addition to regular chiropractic may further alleviate their sciatic pain. Shoe inserts work by helping to correct structural or functional issues that contribute to spinal misalignment or improper weight distribution.
Research indicates that shoe inserts may 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 a day reduced the intensity of participants’ sciatic pain. They also reported reduced lower back pain, improved physical function, and a reduced likelihood of taking sick leave over the next year.
Shoe Tips for Better Sciatic Nerve Health
For patients struggling with sciatica and high heels, it may be helpful to keep the heel height within two inches. The shoe should also fit snugly to prevent the feet from sliding forward, which forces the spine to compensate by shifting body weight forward as well.
Limiting the time spent in high-heeled shoes is also beneficial. This could involve wearing flatter heels for commuting or running errands, keeping the heels higher for the work day, or only wearing them for important meetings.
The type of insole used will vary depending on the type of shoe. A heel that completely encloses the foot would allow for a normal sized insole, while a lighter insole or an insole just below the pads of the foot would be more appropriate for a heel that leaves more of the foot exposed.