What Causes Sciatica to Flare Up? – Top 8 Triggers

Are you suspecting you might be having Sciatica?  Find out what causes Sciatica and what practices might flare it up.

One clear symptom that you might be having Sciatica is experiencing pain in your lower back, hips, knees, and toes.

For acute Sciatica, the pain may be manageable. Chronic Sciatica may require surgery to treat pain.

In this article, we are going to carefully explore what causes Sciatica to flare up.

The Sciatic Nerve

The Sciatic nerve is the largest in the body. It has two main parts. One sciatic nerve runs on the left side while the other runs on the right side. Each of the two nerves sends signals to the two limbs.

Sciatic Nerve

It originates from the lower spine in a region called the lumbar. It then runs through the buttocks, thigh up to the sole of your feet. The sciatic nerve has five branches. The nerves are labeled L4, L5, S1, S2, and S3. These nerves control the motor and sensory functions of the lower body.

The nerves run down through a muscle called the piriformis muscle. It passes through the pelvis, buttocks through the knees. The sciatic nerve controls the movement of the hip, knees, foot, and toes. It also provides sensation to all these parts of the lower body.


Sciatica pain occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated, inflamed, or compressed. It is the pain felt when the sciatic nerve is affected. The pain runs from the lower back to the legs.


The pain that occurs due to the compression of the sciatic nerve is called radiculopathy. It is experienced when one or more root nerve is irritated or compressed. The pain starts from the source to the thighs, calf, and foot.

Sciatica is a set of symptoms caused by problems in your lower back. It happens through degeneration or herniated discs. Herniated discs occur when chemical substances leak out through the outer layer and press the neighboring nerve root.

Degeneration of bones in the lumbar region presses the nerves of the neighboring nerve root. The compression of the sciatic nerve caused sciatica.

The nerve can be compressed by a tumor. It can also be damaged by disease. Acute sciatica occurs for less than two weeks. Chronic sciatica occurs for more than 8 weeks.


Different types of pains are experienced in case of any irritation of the sciatic nerve. You may experience sharp pain, a burning sensation, a throbbing pain, or an electric shock. You may also feel some discomfort or aching in your lower back and feet.

Sciatic Symptoms

The pain is felt on the lower back region, the thighs, knees, leg, and toes. Some of the symptoms associated with sciatica are listed below.

  • The thigh muscles start becoming weak.
  • The muscles in the leg and your foot become weak.
  • A feeling of numbness experienced in the lower back, thighs, legs, and feet
  • Tingling, tightness, and pins and needles felt in the lower part of the body.
  • Severe pain in the lower body
  • The loss of control of the bowel and bladder muscles
  • Constant pain in one side of the leg
  • Lower back pain.


Diagnosis of sciatica includes options like x-ray, CT scan, MRI, and electromyography.

Treatment Methods for Sciatica


The doctor may prescribe for you several drugs. They include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, pain killers, anti-seizure, and narcotics. Injection of steroids can help with inflammation to reduce pain.

Physical Therapy

It involves the improvement of your movement. You may be advised to exercise, use sciatica creams for massage, or to improve your sitting posture.

Physical Therapy for Sciatica

Exercising the core muscles will help to strengthen your lower back. You can ensure proper sitting posture by getting a seat with lower back support. Your hips should be level with your hips.

You can also ensure you practice proper body mechanics. Correctly lift a heavy load.


Surgical options include Lumbar laminectomy which involves the widening of the spinal cord in the lumbar region to reduce pressure in the sciatic nerve.

The other option is the discectomy. It involves partial or complete removal of the herniated disc or the bone spur.

Causes of Sciatica

Causes of Sciatica

Herniated Disc or Slipped Disc

The discs are a vital part of the spine. They help to cushion the bones. They protect the bones by absorbing shock while you are moving.

Herniated Disc

Injury can cause the inner portion to protrude through the outer par. He slipped joint suppresses the root of the sciatic nerve to cause pain.

Degenerated Disc

Degeneration of discs is an age-related occurrence. It happens when the discs between the bones deteriorate. It reduces height and causes the nerve pathway to narrow. It compresses the sciatic nerves to cause sciatica.

Degenerated Disc

The narrowing of the pathway can cause it to pinch the nerve as it comes out of its roots.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis

It occurs when the spaces between your spine narrow. When this happens, a lot of pressure is placed on the sciatic nerves.

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis Syndrome

It is a condition that occurs when the piriformis muscles become tight. This tightness irritates the sciatic nerve. It is a rare disorder.


Injury of the lumbar spine or the sciatic nerve may cause pain.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda Equina Syndrome

It occurs when the nerve root of the Cauda equina is compressed. It disrupts the sensory and motor functions carried out by the sciatic nerves.


A tumor is a mass of tissue caused by the accumulation of abnormal cells. The abnormal accumulation of tissue compresses the sciatic nerves.



It is a condition in which one of the vertebrae in the lower part of the back slips forward. It narrows the pathway of the sciatic nerve. It causes pain.


It is a form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that protects the bones wears out over time. The edges of these destroyed bones compress the sciatic nerves.

What Causes Sciatica to Flare Up


injury in the lower back region

An injury in the lower back region may affect the lumbar or the sciatic nerves.


As you continue aging, the bones continue to wear out with time. Apart from that, the discs also start to deteriorate. These lead to irritation of the sciatic nerve that results in pain.


Obesity with sciatica

The spine supports the whole body. All your weight is carried by your spine. It means that if your weight is beyond what your spine should carry, the spine deteriorates faster than it should. Carrying a lot of weight may cause a strain in your lower back region.

Improper Posture

sciatica with Improper Posture

Poor sitting posture puts unnecessary strain on your back. On the other hand, poor posture when lifting heavy loads can lead to injury. It makes you more prone to sciatica.


Diabetes causes damage to your nerves. Diabetic neuropathy is the damage of nerves caused by diabetes. Diabetes damages nerves in your legs and your feet. This damage may occur in sciatic nerves. It may prevent sensory and motor functions.

Lack of Activity

Lack of Activity

Sitting for a long period and lack of exercise may increase your chances of getting sciatica.


Smoking restricts blood flow to different nerve cells that communicate with the brain. Tobacco speeds up the wearing down of the spine. It also weakens bones and damages the sciatic nerves.


Sciatica is not a diagnosis but a set of symptoms. It affects the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve is responsible for both motor and sensory functions of the lower body. The sciatic nerve originates from the lumbar and passes through the thighs, knees to the feet. It controls the movement and sensation of all these parts.

When the sciatic nerve is irritated, compressed, or inflamed, it causes pain. The pain may vary with period or severity. Acute sciatica occurs for less than 8 weeks. Chronic sciatica lasts longer.

Sciatica is caused by different factors like degenerated discs and herniated discs. Other causes include spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, injury, cauda equina syndrome, tumor, Spondylolisthesis, and osteoarthritis.

Sciatica may be flared up by Injury, aging, obesity, improper posture, diabetes, lack of activity, and smoking.

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