Sciatica is the common name for radiculopathy, the medical term for that pins-and-needles sensation that runs down your leg, the weakness in your hip and limb, and the sometimes-shocking electric jolt of pain that can stop you in your tracks.
It means that something has compressed or damaged a nerve — in this case, your sciatic nerve — and you feel the effects along the entire nerve path, which starts in your lower back and runs down the length of your legs.
Knowing the risk factors for sciatica can help you avoid the controllable ones, so you can do your best to prevent this painful condition. But some risk factors are inevitable, and knowing which ones apply to you can help you understand the correlation, recognize the problem, and seek medical attention before it gets out of hand.
That’s where Dr. Dinash Yanamadula comes in. He and our team at the Princeton Pain and Spine Institute in Lawrenceville and Edgewater, New Jersey, can diagnose and treat sciatica, so you can get back to a pain-free life. Understanding and identifying sciatica starts with knowing what puts you at risk for it.
Are you at risk for sciatica?
Yes, you are at risk for sciatica, as are all humans. A compressed or damaged sciatic nerve can occur for multiple reasons, and many are beyond our control. However, certain situations, lifestyles, activities, and conditions up your chances of irritating this long nerve and developing sciatica. Answer the following questions to calculate your likelihood.
Are you a couch potato?
Inactivity makes you a target for sciatica. Whether you’re a desk jockey, a truck driver, or a couch potato, the act of sitting, especially for prolonged periods, applies pressure to your spine and its cushiony discs, which can pinch your sciatic nerve.
Are you an athlete?
Ironically, a very active life can be just as hard on your spine as a sedentary life. Athletes, construction workers, dock workers, nurses, and anyone who lifts, twists, and hoists things regularly have a higher risk of developing sciatica.
Do you have disc problems?
The discs in your spine absorb shock when you move and protect your vertebrae by providing space between the bones. Unfortunately, several conditions can compromise these spongy spacers, and if a problem occurs in your lower back region, it can easily affect your sciatic nerve. Common disc problems that can lead to sciatica include:
- Herniated discs
- Degenerated discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Bone spurs
In short, any spinal changes can alter the environment and press on your sciatic nerve.
Are you getting older?
Of course you are — and age is one of the uncontrollable risk factors of sciatica. In fact, we see sciatica most frequently in folks between 30 and 50. As your spinal tissues age, they break down and cause structural changes in your spine that can lead to sciatica.
Are you pregnant?
Because your sciatic nerve runs under your uterus, it comes into play during pregnancy. As your baby grows, the pressure on the nerve increases steadily. You also have a heightened supply of the hormone relaxin, which relaxes your ligaments and muscles so you can grow and deliver a baby. Unfortunately, the combination of a lax environment and a heavy fetus means your sciatic nerve may get in the way.
Are you overweight?
Overweight and obese people have the same risk for sciatica as pregnant women, minus the hormone factor. Carrying extra pounds places constant pressure on your spine, and your sciatic nerve is in the danger zone.
Have you injured your back?
Car accidents, sports trauma, and work-related injuries can shift your vertebrae and pinch your sciatic nerve. Sometimes, the symptoms are delayed, making it difficult to connect the two events, but back injuries are often the culprit behind sciatica, especially if chronic inflammation is involved.
What can I do about sciatica?
Dr. Yanamadula provides personalized pain management solutions for sciatica and other lower back issues, and we have a range of treatment options we can tailor to your specific needs.
Depending on the underlying cause of your sciatica and the severity of your symptoms, he may recommend lumbar epidural steroid injections, lumbar transforaminal epidural steroid injections, lumbar radiofrequency neurotomy, sacroiliac joint steroid injections, or lumbar sympathetic blocks.
At the Princeton Pain and Spine Institute, you can rest assured you’ll receive compassionate care from a knowledgeable health care professional. If you’re at risk for sciatica or are currently living with it, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Yanamadula to discuss your options. Call or click today.