What Causes Sciatica To Flare Up?

April 4, 2023

Do you have sciatica? Sciatica is a painful condition that’s caused when the sciatic nerve—the longest and widest nerve in the body—is injured or irritated. While sciatica typically only affects one side of the lower body, it can cause debilitating pain, numbness, and tingling in the back, buttocks, and legs. 

If you have sciatica, you may be wondering what caused it to flare up, how to prevent your symptoms from getting worse, and where to get treatment. In this informative blog, follow along as we answer all these questions, so that you can experience pain relief as soon as possible. 

What Causes The Sciatic Nerve To Flare Up?

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk in the lower back, which compresses the sciatic nerve and causes inflammation. Other potential causes include spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal, and spondylolisthesis, which occurs when a fracture causes one vertebra to slip forward on top of another, compressing the sciatic nerve in the process.

Poor posture and physical activity that involves repetitive bending or lifting can also cause sciatica to flare up, as can degeneration, or, “the tissues in the lumbar spine degrading over time as a result of age.”

Keep in mind: Sciatica is often a symptom of a larger problem or underlying health condition that needs to be addressed fully, before your sciatic nerve can heal. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to visit a sciatica pain doctor who can assess your whole condition, and treat the root problem, instead of merely addressing your pain symptoms. 

What Makes Sciatica Worse?

In most cases, the pain and discomfort associated with sciatica can get worse if you sit or stand for long periods of time, lift heavy objects, or perform activities that involve twisting your body. Poor posture can also contribute to worsening sciatica symptoms, as can inflammation from conditions like arthritis or infection. Finally, sudden body movements like muscle spasms, coughing and sneezing can also cause more pain. 

How To Prevent Sciatic Nerve Pain

Anyone who’s ever experienced sciatic pain knows how debilitating it can be—as patients’ often use words like “burning, searing, or stabbing” to describe how it feels. That’s why one of the most common questions asked by those who have sciatica is how to prevent the pain from getting worse in addition to what they can do to feel better.

Fortunately, by avoiding activities that put strain on your back and making adjustments in how you sit, stand, walk, and sleep, you can prevent your pain from getting worse. Follow these guidelines to keep prevent you pain from getting worse:

How To Sit With Sciatica

  • When you sit, use a firm chair with a straight back and a seat cushion. 
  • Sit with your back against the back of the chair and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place a wedge cushion or a pillow between your legs to support your hips.
  • Change positions frequently throughout the day to relieve pressure on your lower back, and never sit for too long. 

How To Stand With Sciatica

  • When standing, stand up slowly, keep your feet hip-width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Also try to keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles engaged.
  • If you experience any pain or discomfort, sit down to relieve the pressure.
  • If possible, use a walking aid, such as a cane or walker, to help you keep your balance and reduce any pain.

How To Walk With Sciatica

  • When you walk, walk slowly and avoid activities that could cause pain or discomfort, such as by walking on uneven surfaces or up steep hills or slopes. 
  • Try to maintain an upright posture as you move—as this will ensure support for your spine. 
  • If you can, do some stretching before you walk to help reduce tension in your muscles. 
  • Finally, use a good pair of shoes that provide adequate support. 

How To Sleep With Sciatica

  • Try to sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees. Keeping your hips and knees bent can help reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. 
  • Use a supportive mattress that’s not too soft or too hard, such as a memory foam mattress or a mattress topper. 
  • Consider investing in a lumbar support pillow too. This can help reduce pressure on the lower back as well. 

Should I Go To A Doctor Or Chiropractor For Sciatica?

If you have sciatica, you may be wondering if seeing a chiropractor can help. While chiropractors can be helpful in some circumstances, it’s often better to visit an experienced pain doctor who can assess your full condition. That’s because chiropractors, while medically trained, don’t hold an M.D., and because sciatica is often a symptom of a much larger issue. A chiropractor can help to relieve discomfort, but only a medical doctor can identify the underlying cause, and, by doing so, provide the most effective treatment. 

Need Sciatica Treatment in Austin, Texas?

At Greater Austin Pain Center, our sciatica specialists in Austin have the experience to treat not only your symptoms, but their underlying cause. We’ll diagnose what’s causing your sciatic nerve pain and provide treatment options that may include chiropractic care, as well as procedures beyond a chiropractor’s scope, such as physical therapy, medications, or even surgery.

Schedule an appointment for your sciatica pain treatment in Austin today!

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