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Are you between the ages of 30 and 50? Do you have a job that requires heavy lifting or driving for long periods of time? If you answered yes to these questions, you may be at risk of developing sciatica, which is a radiating pain condition that involves your sciatic nerve. 

Our board-certified orthopaedic spine surgeon Bonaventure Ngu, MD, at Premier Spine Institute, specializes in diagnosing and treating sciatica, and he wants you to know the risk factors that can lead to this common pain condition. 

Sciatica explained

Sciatica is a common pain condition. Though the structures in your back may be the underlying cause of your pain, sciatica results from irritation, pinching, or damage to your sciatic nerve. This finger-thick nerve is made up of five nerve roots that exit from your lumbar spine and sacrum, join together in your butttocks, and extend down into your legs. 

Herniated discs and bone spurs are the most common causes of sciatica. When the nerve is irritated or pinched, you may feel pain sensations that start at your lower back, run through your buttocks and hip, and into one of your legs. Your pain may range from a dull ache to an electric shock-like sensation. 

In most cases, we take a conservative approach to treating sciatica. We usually recommend physical therapy to improve muscle strength and support, along with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If needed, we may also prescribe muscle relaxants to control muscle spasms or antidepressants to block nerve pain. 

For severe or chronic sciatica, we offer interventional pain management treatments, such as epidural steroid injections and minimally invasive laser spine surgery

Sciatica risk factors

According to the Cleveland Clinic, 40% of adults in the United States develop sciatica at some point. Though anyone can get this nerve pain condition, you may be at a greater risk of developing it if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have diabetes or osteoarthritis
  • Lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoke
  • Have a job that requires heavy lifting or constant twisting of your back
  • Spend prolonged periods of time sitting or driving a motor vehicle

Age is also a sciatica risk factor, and it’s often diagnosed in adults ages 30-50. However, your risk of developing the nerve condition can increase as you get older due to degenerative changes in your spine that can occur with age. These changes can cause herniated discs and bone spurs. 

Reducing your risk

You may not be able to control all the factors that may increase your risk of developing sciatica, but making a few lifestyle changes may improve your back health and lower your risk of developing the nerve condition. 

To reduce your risk of developing sciatica, we recommend:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Strengthening your core muscles
  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining good posture when sitting, standing, and lifting

If you have sciatica, we may incorporate these lifestyle recommendations into your treatment plan. 

To see if you have sciatica or to get treatment if you do, book an appointment online or over the phone with Premier Spine Institute today.

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