As many as 40% of Americans will experience the painful symptoms of sciatica during their lifetimes, with about 5% of the population developing sciatica pain within any given year.
Unlike some medical problems that affect one gender more than another, sciatica appears to have no preference, affecting both women and men in equal numbers.
For many of these people, sciatica is a one-and-done medical problem, occurring once (or maybe twice), never to return once the symptoms are resolved.
But for others, sciatica recurs — sometimes multiple times a year. If you’re in the second group, you know the toll chronic sciatica symptoms can take on your daily life.
At Pacific Sports and Spine, our team is skilled in helping patients manage their sciatica symptoms and find relief for chronic, recurrent pain. If you have sciatica or you’ve had it in the past, here’s how to tell if it’s likely to recur and what we can do to help you live pain-free.
Sciatica happens when your sciatic nerve gets irritated. The longest nerve on your body, the sciatic nerve exits your lower back and divides into two branches. One branch travels down each leg.
If the nerve gets irritated or compressed, the result is lower back pain and often pain, numbness, or burning sensations that radiate into your buttock or down your leg.
Sciatica can develop after a traumatic injury, like a car accident, fall, or sports injury, but for many people, sciatica is a result of wear-and-tear or lifestyle or environmental factors, like:
Even ill-fitting shoes can lead to sciatica.
Sciatica is also more common among people with certain spine-related conditions, like:
Knowing what’s causing your sciatica helps us predict the likelihood that your symptoms may come back after initially going away.
Sciatica typically recurs because the underlying cause of those painful symptoms hasn’t been entirely resolved.
If your sciatica is the result of lifestyle factors, like being overweight or a smoking habit, you’re much more likely to see your symptoms returning in the future.
Being overweight puts extra strain on your spine, especially if you carry those pounds around your middle. Over time, your spine can be pulled out of alignment, causing sciatic nerve compression.
Smoking increases your risk of recurrent sciatica by damaging your blood vessels and interfering with normal circulation. That means your spine and the tissue surrounding it receive less oxygen and nutrients, making them more prone to injury and inflammation.
If you have a job that requires a lot of standing, sitting, or repetitive lifting, your risk of chronic sciatica increases. While you may not be able to change your career, there may be some things you can do — on the job and off — to strengthen your back or provide support during your workday.
Many people who have chronic sciatica continue to experience symptoms because they have a spine disease or condition that hasn’t been fully addressed.
That includes problems like scoliosis, herniated discs, and other spine problems that tend to become more common as you get older, like spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis (a condition where one vertebra slips forward over another).
During your evaluation, we review your medical history and order additional testing to find out if you have an underlying unresolved issue contributing to your symptoms. Based on what we find, we recommend a course of treatment.
Once we determine the cause of your recurrent symptoms, we develop a custom treatment plan focused on helping you finally find relief. Depending on what’s causing sciatica to recur, your treatment might include:
In most cases, we suggest conservative treatments first, recommending surgery only when those options don’t provide long-term relief for sciatica symptoms.
As a leading interventional pain practice in Eugene and Roseburg, Oregon, Pacific Sports and Spine is dedicated to helping every patient find the right treatment to relieve chronic sciatica and other spine pain issues.
To learn how we can help you, book an appointment online or over the phone today.