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What Causes Sciatica to Flare Up?

Sep 23, 2020

What Causes Sciatica to Flare UpMost people have experienced back pain at some point and are familiar with the throbbing or piercing discomfort, but if you have experienced sciatica, you are used to the shooting pains associated with the condition. Sciatica begins with a lower back pain and radiates through the buttocks, down the back of your legs. When this happens, it is always important to seek sciatica treatment to prevent the root cause from worsening and causing more issues in the future. But in addition to seeking professional care, it can be helpful to understand the habits and lifestyle that can trigger the pain to occur. Properly managing these triggers can be an important part of recovery.


Emotional anxiety or stress can be known to exacerbate the pain associated with sciatica. During a turbulent period, the brain may deprive nerves of oxygen, including the sciatic nerve where the pain begins. This deprivation can lead to the leg pain, weakness, and tingling sensations typical of the condition.

Excessive Weight

Back pain in general can be connected to obesity, due to the additional pressure placed on your spine. This includes pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can worsen as weight is gained. In order to limit long term damage to the sciatic nerve, it is recommended that weight is managed properly.

Tight-Fitting Clothing

Many people with chronic sciatic pain say that when they wear tight clothing, their pain will often flare up. Particularly tight jeans or underwear with tight elastic bands, as they tend to fall near the sciatic nerve. The pressure from these clothing can be enough to irritate the nerve and cause a bout of pain.

Wearing High Heels

When wearing high heels, your body weight is shifted forward, forcing your hips to flex forward to hold you upright which causes hip pain in most situations. Pelvic movement of this sort stretches the hamstring muscles, which are near your sciatic nerve and can irritate it. When your high heels don’t have cushioned insoles, the impact of steps can be transferred up your legs, to your back and your hips, worsening the pain.

“Back Pocket” Sciatica

If you keep anything in your back pocket –keys, wallets, phones, etc. – and sit for a long period of time, that is another common way that you can cause a flare up of sciatica. These objects can irritate the piriformis muscle, which is right above where the sciatic nerve runs. This pressure on the nerve can cause further pain and issues. If you are able to keep items in a purse or a front pocket, this can prevent future pain and reduce the need for sciatica treatment.

Poor Posture

The improper body alignment caused by poor posture can put extra stress on the lower back, which causes issues with the sciatic nerve. When the nerve is irritated, symptoms associated with sciatica begin to appear. Focusing on standing up straight and improving posture can prevent painful issues in the future.

Lifting with Your Back

When you bend to lift a heavy object, even something as simple as carrying groceries or picking up your child, there can be a large amount of pressure on your lumbar discs. When these discs are overworked, the risk of herniating increases, which can compress the sciatic nerve, leading you to need sciatica treatment.


The piriformis muscle is located in the buttock area, which can spasm and cause something called piriformis syndrome. These spasms compress the sciatic nerve, which often occurs during pregnancy. The weight of a developing fetus can lead to pressure in the groin, shifting the pelvis forward and causing the piriformis muscle to tighten. It is not uncommon for pregnant women to experience sciatica as a secondary symptom of piriformis syndrome.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Spending too much of the day sitting can cause a number of back issues, including sciatica. Those who sit most of the day and avoid exercise can be subject to intervertebral disc damage, which contributes to nerve compression and sciatic pain.

Depression and Negative Emotions

Just like stress can cause sciatic pain, the repressing of emotions can also contribute to pain. Some experts believe that depression can lead to pain in the buttocks, lumbar area, and feet, and that mood improvements lead to relief.

While you can use these triggers to prevent flare-ups, seeking sciatica treatment is the most effective way to prevent worsening pain from the condition. At AICA Orthopedics, our team of specialists is able to assess and diagnose the cause of your pain, creating customized treatment plans to achieve recovery. As soon as you suspect sciatica, contact AICA Orthopedics to begin taking a proactive approach to your health.


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