What causes sciatic pain? What makes sciatic pain worse?

The only way to get rid of some pain is to find its root cause. The same rule applies to the sciatic nerve pain. But before you ever try to do something yourself to help relieve your pain, it is important to learn:

  • what exactly that body part or nerve is (where you are feeling pain)
  • if it is actually something that you are thinking about or entirely different

It’s because many people wrongly identify their pain and thus, all their efforts for pain relieving go in vain. Visiting a chiropractor is the best way to determine if sciatic pain treatment is the right course for you. After a proper diagnosis, a chiropractor will able to pinpoint where the pain is originating and then prescribe the right treatment.

What is Sciatica? How does Sciatic pain feel like?

The term “Sciatica” refers to the nerve pain that runs from the lower back towards your feet. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, the only largest single nerve, is irritated, inflamed, or compressed due to other underlying conditions.


Image Source: Yoga International

When a person suffers from sciatica, he/she feels pain along the path of the sciatic nerve, as shown in the above image. The pain is characterized by most people in the following ways:

  • Shooting pain/constant inflammation: A constant burning sensation or shooting pain is felt radiating down the front or back of the thigh to the feet.
  • Numbness in the back of a leg: Another common symptom that some people with inflamed sciatic nerve experience is numbness. Sometimes, they also feel tingling or weakness in the leg.
  • Pain in only one side: Most often, sciatica affects only one leg. People feel heaviness in the affected leg. In only rare cases, both legs are affected.
  • Pain induced by different postures: Some people complain that they find sciatica getting worse when they sit, try to stand, bend the spine forward, twist the spine, lie down, or cough. However, such symptoms might be relieved by walking or applying a heat pack over the rear pelvic region.

Important Note: Not every type of lower back pain or the pain that feels radiating down the leg is sciatica.

What causes Sciatica?

Sciatica is not the problem itself. Rather, it is a symptom of an underlying condition. A variety of spinal disorders can lead to compression of the sciatic nerve.

The most common reasons that cause pain in the sciatic nerve are:

  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Trauma that resulted in spinal cord injuries
  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease
  • Muscle spasm
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
  • Spinal tumors

Around 90% of the sciatica is caused by a herniated disc problem in the lumbar spine.

Less common reasons behind sciatica include endometriosis, infection in the spine, nerve damage due to diabetes, shifting of the fetus during pregnancy, and side-effects of medications.

You might be surprised to know that if you are anxiety-prone, sciatica can get worse. This applies to other types of pain also. It is because your psychological vulnerabilities can change how your brain behaves.

What makes Sciatica worse?

Sciatica can get worse due to several issues that can pinch the sciatic nerve or nerve root, for instance, spinal stenosis or injury. Sometimes, when patients overdo a certain mildly strenuous activity, such as gardening or box lifting, sciatica flairs up. Besides, anxiety and stress may also worsen sciatica. It’s because when you experience anxiety, your brain sometimes denies the supply of oxygen in the lower back region. Plus, cortisol – a hormone produced when you feel stressed – can also make sciatica worse and make it last longer.

If you are also feeling pain in the lower back or down the leg, it’s time to seek the advice of a professional and recognized chiropractor for the diagnosis of pain and see if you need sciatica pain treatment.

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