Sciatica, characterized by sharp, shooting pain along the sciatic nerve, can bring life to a standstill when it flares up. Understanding the triggers behind these episodes is crucial for managing your symptoms and the pain that comes with this condition.

In this article, we’ll help you understand what causes sciatica to flare up. From underlying conditions to lifestyle habits, we’ll bring you up to speed with everything you need to know about sciatica flare-ups, including what to do if you’re experiencing one.

What causes sciatica in the first place?

Sciatica originates from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, typically resulting from various underlying conditions. The primary culprits include herniated discs, where the inner gel-like material protrudes and presses on the nerve, and bone spurs that develop due to spinal degeneration, narrowing the space around the nerve. 

Spinal stenosis, a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal, and spondylolisthesis, a vertebra slipping out of place, can also contribute to sciatic nerve irritation. Rarely, sciatica can stem from tumors or injury-induced nerve compression.

What causes sciatica to flare up?

Sciatica flare-ups can be triggered by lots of different factors that exacerbate the underlying nerve irritation. Common triggers include sudden movements that place added stress on the lower back, such as heavy lifting or abrupt twisting motions. 

Prolonged sitting or standing in awkward positions, which compress the sciatic nerve, can also lead to flare-ups. Additionally, activities that involve repetitive motion or impact on the spine, like running or cycling, might aggravate your sciatica.

Lifestyle factors such as obesity, which increases pressure on the spine, and sedentary habits that weaken the supporting muscles, can contribute to flare-ups. Poor posture and a lack of back support, especially when sitting or sleeping, may also provoke sciatic nerve symptoms. 

What should you do when your sciatica flares up?

Managing a sciatica flare-up involves a combination of self-care strategies and, in some cases, professional medical care. When faced with a flare-up, it’s essential to prioritize rest and avoid activities that make your pain worse. Applying ice packs to the affected area for 20-minute intervals several times a day can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Gentle stretching exercises that target the lower back and legs, such as knee-to-chest stretches or yoga poses like the cat-cow stretch, may provide relief by loosening tight muscles and easing nerve compression. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or pain relievers can help manage acute pain, but it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before using these.

Contact Advanced Rheumatology of Houston to schedule a sciatica appointment 

If you’re experiencing a sciatica flare-up, it’s crucial to listen to your body and not push through severe pain. Consulting a healthcare professional for a tailored treatment plan and guidance tailored to your condition is always advisable when your symptoms are worsening.

At Advanced Rheumatology of Houston, we understand the debilitating toll that sciatica can take on your day-to-day life. With over a decade of private practice experience, you can rest assured you’re in good hands with our professional team. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and find some much-needed relief from your painful sciatica symptoms.