Signs Sciatica Is Getting Worse: What to Watch Out For

Jul 08, 2024 | 2 min read

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Recognizing the signs sciatica is getting worse is crucial for timely intervention. Increased pain intensity, spreading pain, and reduced mobility are key indicators that require attention.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition where pain radiates along the sciatic nerve path. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back through the hips and buttocks down each leg. 

According to Harvard Health, sciatica affects approximately 10-40% of the population at some point in their lives.

Common causes of sciatica include a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or a bone spur on the spine compressing part of the nerve.

Typical symptoms of sciatica include pain, inflammation, and numbness in the affected leg. The pain can be sharp, burning, or excruciating, making it hard to stand or sit for long periods. Sciatica usually affects one side of the body.

Signs Sciatica Is Getting Worse

  • Increased pain intensity: The pain becomes more severe and harder to manage with usual methods.
  • Pain spreading to other areas: Pain extends beyond the original area, moving down the leg or to both legs.
  • Pain lasting longer than before: Pain episodes persist for extended periods, becoming almost constant.
  • More frequent pain episodes: Pain occurs more often, sometimes daily or multiple times a day.
  • Reduced mobility: Difficulty in moving or performing daily activities due to increased pain and stiffness.
  • Pain affecting both legs: Pain that begins to affect both legs instead of just one, indicating a severe condition.
  • Severe weakness: Significant muscle weakness in the affected leg or legs, making it difficult to stand or walk.

Why Does Sciatica Get Worse?

Several factors can contribute to the worsening of sciatica:

  • Poor lifestyle habits: Lack of exercise, poor diet, and prolonged sitting can exacerbate sciatica.
  • Underlying conditions: Arthritis, obesity, or diabetes can contribute to worsening symptoms.
  • Lack of proper treatment: Ignoring early signs can lead to increased pain and complications.
  • Physical activities: Heavy lifting, twisting, or bending can strain the sciatic nerve.
  • Poor posture: Sitting or standing for long periods with bad posture can put extra pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Physical strain: Intense exercise or sudden movements can worsen sciatica symptoms.

How to Relieve Sciatica Pain?

There are various methods to relieve sciatica pain and manage flare-ups:

  • Home remedies: Applying ice or heat packs can reduce inflammation and pain. Gentle exercises and stretches can improve flexibility and strengthen supporting muscles.
  • Physical therapy: Targeted exercises and treatments from a physical therapist can effectively relieve pain.
  • Good posture: Maintaining proper posture and using ergonomic furniture can reduce nerve pressure.
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter medications can provide temporary relief from sciatica pain.
  • Dietary changes: Eating a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce sciatica pain. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseed, along with fruits and vegetables, can reduce inflammation.
  • Supplements: Certain supplements like turmeric, magnesium, and vitamin D can help reduce inflammation and improve nerve health. Always consult a healthcare professional before adding new supplements to your diet.
  • Surgical options: In severe cases, surgery may be considered to relieve nerve pressure.

Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any treatment plan.

When Should You Seek Medical Help for Sciatica?

It is important to know when to consult a doctor about sciatica symptoms:

  • Persistent pain: If the pain lasts more than a few weeks despite home treatment, it is time to see a doctor.
  • Severe pain: If the pain is severe and not relieved by over-the-counter medications, seek medical advice.
  • Pain spreading to both legs: If sciatica pain begins to affect both legs, it is a sign of a serious condition that needs immediate attention.
  • Significant weakness: If you experience significant weakness in the legs or difficulty controlling bowel or bladder functions, seek immediate medical help.
  • Numbness or tingling: Persistent numbness or tingling in the legs or feet is a sign that the condition may be worsening and requires professional evaluation.
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