Sciatica Triggers, Causes, and Cures
Sciatica is a common complaint for many people. It has numerous causes, risk factors, and triggers, and can affect people of all ages, however, is most common in people aged 30 to 50 years old.
Sciatic nerve pain is often the result of a herniated or slipped disk, which puts pressure on the nerve root in the lower back and causes irritation, inflammation, pinching, or compression. In most cases, sciatica will begin to feel better following self-care and simple treatments, including chiropractic intervention.
There are numerous other triggers associated with sciatica pain, so being aware of and avoiding them is important to reduce potential discomfort. Continue reading to learn common triggers of sciatica and simple pain reduction options.
What is the Sciatic Nerve?
The sciatic nerve originates in your buttocks area and runs down your leg. It is the longest and thickest nerve in the body.
The sciatic nerve is actually comprised of five nerve roots, which come together to form a right and left sciatic nerve. Two of the five nerve roots originate from the lumbar spine in the lower back while the other three join in at the sacrum, which is the final section of the spine.
The sciatic nerve runs on each side of the body, going through the hips and buttocks, down the leg, and ending just below the knee, where it splits off into other nerves which extend to the toes.
What Is Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica pain is felt along the path the sciatic nerve takes, radiating from the lower back, through the hips and buttocks, and down the leg. It typically only affects one side of the body at a time.
Someone with sciatica will experience pain that ranges from mild to severe and typically originates in the lower back and runs through the hips and buttocks and down one leg. However, sciatica pain can appear at any point along the sciatic nerve’s path without affecting each touchpoint.
Those with sciatic pain may feel muscle weakness, particularly in the leg and foot. There may be numbness in the leg along with a tingling “pins-and-needles” sensation that runs down the leg and into the foot and toes. Some people experience symptoms similar to a bad leg cramp, including a sharp, knife-like pain, or burning, electrical-type pain. Sometimes the pain is worse when moving, sneezing, or coughing.
What Triggers Sciatic Nerve Pain?
While sciatica is felt along the route of the sciatic nerve, true injury to the sciatic nerve is actually quite rare. Rather, the term “sciatica” refers to any pain that originates in the lower back and spreads down the leg. It’s usually not an injury to the actual sciatic nerve; however, it is an injured nerve that causes the pain.
Oftentimes, sciatic nerve pain results from impairments to the spinal nerve root at the L4, L5, or S1 level. The pain could be the result of normal wear and tear associated with aging, degenerative disc disease, muscle spasms in the back or buttocks, spondylolisthesis, lumbar spinal stenosis, or even pregnancy.
You could be at risk for developing sciatic nerve pain if you have nerve damage from diabetes or high blood sugar. If your daily life or job requires you to do a lot of heavy lifting, you may experience sciatica pain. Or you may just be getting older. People aged 30 to 50 years old are at highest risk for sciatica nerve pain.
Certain other activities and situations also tend to trigger sciatic pain in patients, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Sitting too much
- Wearing uncomfortable or uncushioned shoes, such as high heels
- Wearing excessively tight, form-fitting pants, shorts, or skirts that impact circulation
- Carrying bulky items in a back pocket, including a phone or wallet
Avoiding these triggers may not stop instances of sciatic pain entirely; however, it can help decrease instances of feeling pain.
What Is the Fastest Way to Cure Sciatica?
You have numerous options beyond avoiding triggers to help improve your sciatica nerve pain and relieve the discomfort you’ve been feeling.
You may think that rest is best and you shouldn’t move around much when you are in pain with sciatica, but that’s not entirely true. While rest is important, so is activity. Resting too much can aggravate your symptoms, while gentle exercise can help make you feel better.
Do not attempt strenuous exercises, but rather try walking around the block or taking a relaxing swim in the pool. You should not feel pain while exercising, so stop immediately if you do.
Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your body. Core exercises, for instance, can strengthen your spine to better protect you against pain. Plus, exercise releases endorphins, which can interfere with how your body feels pain, easing your symptoms.
Stretch every day, particularly before beginning any exercise. Gentle stretches can improve your flexibility and range of motion, enabling you to move more freely throughout your daily routine. In addition, stretches improve your core strength, so your spine is more able to do its job without pain.
Try doing easy stretches while watching TV or listening to your favorite playlist. Fitting stretches into your daily routine will enable you to see improvement over time.
Utilize Heat and Ice
Heat and ice are often used for injuries and pain, and sciatica nerve pain is no different. Ice can help reduce inflammation, while heat increases blood flow to the area, which can encourage healing. Heat and ice therapy can also help with painful muscle spasms that are sometimes associated with sciatica.
To make the most of heat and ice, start by applying an ice pack to the area for fifteen minutes once an hour. Be sure that you do not apply ice directly to your skin, but rather wrap the ice pack in a thin washcloth to prevent injury. Every two to three hours, switch to heat therapy, also protecting your skin from direct heat. Never sleep with an ice pack or heating pad on your skin.
Contact Your Chiropractor
While home treatments can effectively ease symptoms of sciatica, it’s still recommended to see your doctor to help diagnose and treat the pain. Chiropractic care focuses on the cause of the pain, provides immediate relief, and manages your ongoing care with a unique treatment plan.
When visiting a chiropractor, you’ll have an initial exam which will lead to a treatment plan that is specific to your particular needs. In most cases, you’ll receive a chiropractic adjustment, which involves gentle pressure to reduce nerve irritability and restore range of motion. Gentle stretches may also be utilized to help sore muscles and joints feel better immediately.
Not only will you receive immediate attention for your sciatica pain, you’ll be provided a long-term care plan that involves specific goals for your future. Chiropractic care is holistic care with a focus on therapeutic treatment, maintenance care, exercise, and activity modification so that your sciatic nerve pain is gone for good.
Want to begin your treatment to overcome the constant sciatica pain you’ve been feeling? Schedule an appointment online or call 256-721-9696 today.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.