Acute Sciatica – Symptoms, Risk Factors, Causes and Treatment

Acute Sciatica

Sciatica is normally a shooting pain originating from one’s lower back, traveling into the buttock area, and radiates to either of the leg’s back. Sciatica pain will usually result from pressure being exerted on the sciatic nerve as a result of a herniated or prolapsed disc, a bone spur, or a strained muscle.

Acute Sciatica is pain that suddenly occurs but usually heals within some days or several weeks. The pain severity will depend on the amount of injury caused to the tissue. It may be on ligaments, intervertebral discs, muscles, and nerves.

Symptoms of Acute Sciatica

  • Pain. The pain starts from the lower back and buttocks and travels along the back of the thigh, proceeds beyond the knee, to the calf at times and the foot. The leg is usually more painful than the back, with mild to severe pain.
  • Leg or foot numbness and a tingling sensation that feels like pin or needle pricks.
  • Leg weakness.
  • Lost bladder control or bowel function. These signs indicate a condition called cauda equina syndrome.

Risk Factors and Causes of Acute Sciatica

Acute Sciatica may be caused by several conditions that usually compress or irritate the sciatic nerve. They may include;

  • Trauma is caused by a fall or injury fracturing the spine, tearing a muscle, and damaging the nerves.
  • Spinal stenosis causes the body canals to narrow, compressing the spinal cord and nerves.
  • A herniated disc occurs when the spinal discs gel-like center ruptures or tears through a weak area within the disc’s wall, resulting in compression of the nerves.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This is a condition that results when a vertebra slips out of its normal position pinching the nerves. It is caused by a stress fracture or a weakness in the facet joints.
  • Osteoarthritis may cause damage to the spine, putting the nerves at a greater risk of injury.
  • Diabetes increases the chance of the nerves getting damaged, thereby increasing the risk for Sciatica.
  • Smoking. Nicotine may damage the spinal tissue, cause the bones to weaken, and escalate the speed at which vertebral discs may wear down.
  • An inactive lifestyle such as sitting over long periods and not moving the muscles for flexibility and toning, such as exercising.


Mostly, the goal of treating acute sciatica is to reduce the pain and improve mobility. Many cases are resolved over time depending on the cause, and simple treatments can be used or applied. These will include;

Application of ice heat and cold by use of ice or hot packs – Ice packs will be used to reduce any swelling and reduce pain and should be applied first. Depending on your pain, you can alternate the use of the packs provided.

Suggested article: How To Use Heat Or Ice For Sciatica Pain Relief

Medication – Over-the-counter medication can be taken. The most common ones being ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. They are usually termed Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). When taking aspirin, take it with the care it may cause bleeding and ulcers for some. Those who cannot take NSAIDs can take acetaminophen.

Suggested article: Best Drugs For Sciatica – Injections Over Oral Medications

Physical therapy – With physical therapy, the exercises or stretch movements will reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve, decreasing the pain.

Suggested article: 10 Easy Sciatica Exercises To Try At Home

Spinal injections – Being injected in the lower back with a corticosteroid, an anti-inflammatory medicine, can reduce swelling and pain in the affected nerve roots. This will offer short-term pain relief.

Massage – It might help the muscle spasms that occur alongside sciatica.

Suggested article: 9 Different Techniques For The Best Massage For Sciatica

Surgery – Surgery is rarely necessary since the pain will heal within time, but minimally invasive surgery may be conducted when the pain is very severe.


Preventing Acute Sciatica

  • Maintain a good posture when sitting, lifting objects, standing, and sleeping to relieve lower back pressure.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Have a regular exercise regime.
  • Try to keep yourself from falling, for example, by wearing the right shoes and clearing clutter from your pathways. Have well-lit areas, use staircase rails and bathroom bars.
  • Engage in low-impact activities that are unlikely to hurt the back, such as yoga, walking, and swimming.


Acute Sciatica is a condition that will cause short-term pain but is treatable by having self-care treatments. However, when the treatments do not offer any pain relief, a healthcare provider should be consulted to confirm what is causing the pain and accord the necessary cause of treatment.

Suggested articles:
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