What Causes Sciatica to Flare-Up? Top 8 Most Common Causes

what causes sciatica to flare-up

Sciatica is among the most popular back-related affections in the world. It can be caused by a bunch of different factors, from injuries and trauma to an unhealthy lifestyle and a problematic job. The condition is caused by pressure and tension on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the feet. It is the longest nerve in the human body and the direct result of its affection implies problematic pains.

Sciatica is easy to cure with nothing but some lifestyle changes and a few rules. Medication and medical procedures are not very common, yet they can kick in if the pain is too severe. Painkillers are more common, but injections to block nerves may also be recommended. All in all, the good news is sciatica is likely to heal in no time, with nothing but a home treatment.

Just because you manage to overcome sciatica, it does not mean that it will never come back. Sure, some of the lifestyle changes you make should be permanent. But then, getting back to old habits can cause sciatica to return. There are obviously more reasons wherefore you may end up with it. So, what causes sciatica to flare-up and how can you prevent such problems?

What causes sciatica to flare-up

1. Extra stress on your body

Sciatica is often caused by excessive stress on your body. Just because you have managed to heal it, it does not mean that you can now get back to your bad habits. In fact, sciatica is likely to come back sooner than later. Even if your sciatic nerve is alright now, it is still sensitive from the last inflammation. A bit of extra stress will put pressure on it and can cause the affection to come back.

Stress can occur in more ways though. Normal stress is just as harmful and even anxiety can cause sciatica flareups. Emotional issues work by some simple principles. When you are stressed, the brain will deprive the nerves – and the sciatic nerve makes no exception either – of oxygen. As a result, inflammation may occur when least expected.

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2. Excessive weight

Healing sciatica is one thing. Preventing it from coming back is another thing. You do not have to be a genius to realize that the more you weigh, the more pressure is on your feet and lower back. Whether you sit down, work or just walk around a mall, the excessive weight will put pressure on the lower back and can cause the affection to reappear.

The treatment of sciatica implies trying to lose weight, too, especially if you are overweight. Just because you got rid of it, it does not mean that you have to stop your dieting. Furthermore, extra weight is associated with numerous other health-related affections, so it pays off doing your best to reach the optimal weight for your height.

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3. Bad posture

A bad posture becomes a bad habit. It can be triggered by various lifestyle issues. For example, working in an office may lead to a bad posture. Of course, it can be corrected with the right chair and some adjustments. However, a bad posture can also be maintained while you walk. It takes time to correct it, but it is totally doable.

A poor posture and an incorrect body alignment will simply put more pressure and stress on the lower back. Since the sciatic nerve starts there, it will obviously be exposed to this pressure. When this nerve gets slightly irritated, lower back pain is only a few steps away. Keep ignoring them and sciatica will be back.

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4. Tight clothes

Tight clothes represent a trend these days. A decade ago, they were mostly common in women. These days, you can see men whose clothes are tighter than their partners’. It is all about fashion, as well as the possibility of showing off a great body. So, what causes sciatica to flare-up if you wear tight clothing then?

Simply put, flareups can be triggered by tight jeans, as well as undergarments with elastic bands that stick to you. Tight clothing puts a lot of pressure on your muscles, as everything is kept together in a compact manner, rather than let loose. As a direct consequence, the additional pressure on the sciatic nerve can bring the affection back.

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5. Heavy objects

You can lift heavy objects, but the problem is most people do it the wrong way. Your thighs are quite muscular and should be used to lift heavy objects, rather than the back. It is all about changing your movements and the way you do it. Imagine picking up groceries from the car or taking your kid. You bend over and you raise the back as you go up, rather than maintaining the position and using the legs only.

An incorrect movement will clearly affect the lumbar part of your back – when lumbar discs face excessive amounts of pressure, herniated discs can put pressure on the sciatic nerve. They can irritate it or even compress it. This is when back problems come back. More people assume lifting is contraindicated – it is not, but it has to be done the right way.

6. Sedentary lifestyle

You do not have to exaggerate with your workouts and work while suffering from sciatica, but it does not mean that you can become a vegetable too. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle is often associated with sciatica – such as sitting down for hours in front of the TV. People who work may also have the same issues – office workers or perhaps truck drivers.

Exercising on a regular basis can prevent sciatica flareups. You basically keep the discs active, rather than damaging them. A bit of damage will inevitably compress and irritate the sciatic nerve and this is when sciatica is back. Go to the gym, take some long walks or just engage in various physical activities around your home.

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7. Objects in the back pocket

Lots of people use their back pockets because they find them comfortable. It is easier to pull something out of the back pocket than the front one, especially if you wear some tight clothing. Sitting for hours with something in the back pocket will affect the piriformis muscle. The bad news is that the sciatic nerve is right under it, so it will also suffer.

It does not have to be a large object in the back pocket. Some keys and your mobile device are just as harmful. Get rid of this bad habit and sciatica is less likely to occur again.

8. High heels

Generally speaking, high heels are not recommended for your back. But, what causes sciatica to flare-up if you do wear them? They basically shift the body weight and alter the center of gravity. You are forced to hunch a bit forward.

The good news is there are special shoes with heels that can prevent such issues, yet they need cushioned insoles. This way, the impact of your movements are better distributed around the body.


Bottom line, what causes sciatica to flare-up? There are more factors in the process that can both cause sciatica and lead to flareups. Avoiding such issues can keep your back in great physical form and will prevent all kinds of unwanted positions. You do not need to wait until you suffer from sciatica though – make some improvements today.​

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