Sciatica Flare-Ups After a Car Accident

If you have ever suffered from sciatica, you probably know exactly what the pain feels like and when it is reoccurring. Sometimes it seems to be triggered by nothing, while other times you know a certain action has caused the issue to resurface. While sciatica can be brought on by a traumatic event like a car accident, the pain can also be dormant for long periods and be triggered again when you experience an accident. Even if you were managing the condition before, you may run straight to an accident chiropractor for relief from the pain as it resurfaces.

What Is Sciatica?

In order to understand sciatic pain, you should first be familiar with the sciatic nerve. This is the longest nerve in your body, beginning at the start of your spinal cord and running down through your hips and buttocks, finally branching down each leg. Because of its length and location, this nerve is one of the most important in your body, directly impacting your ability to feel and control your legs. This means the sciatic nerve dictates your mobility in many ways. Any injury or disruption to the sciatic nerve leads to the experience of sciatica.

Sciatica is not a condition itself, but instead a collection of symptoms that manifest as a result of this damage or of other injuries sustained. Sciatica is therefore a symptom of an underlying injury to the vertebrae or spine. The symptoms are very distinct when you are experiencing sciatica.

Symptoms of sciatica are also symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness, pain, and tingling down the buttocks and legs. This can extend as far as the feet and in severe cases, may lead to a loss of feeling or movement. Some describe this as the same sensation as your foot “falling asleep” after not moving.

Injuries That Cause Sciatica

Sciatica usually has a root cause, even if it is not your auto accident. When these root causes are not properly addressed, the symptoms may come and go over time, then being exacerbated when you are in an accident. The injury itself may recur during the collision or simply worsen due to the impact.

The most common injury that leads to sciatic pain is a herniated or ruptured disc. Your vertebrae, the bones in your spine, are separated by small pieces of disc-shaped cartilage. These discs are filled with a thick, clear material that allows for flexibility and cushioning when you move around, preventing the vertebrae from rubbing together. When this disc is moved out of place or the outer layer is ruptured, it can cause crowding in the spinal area, compressing the surrounding nerves. When the sciatic nerve is compressed, this leads to sciatica.

Without proper treatment, this disc may move over time, causing you to experience pain at certain points and no issues at others. If an accident moves the disc again or causes further herniation, sciatica may flare up. An accident doctor will be able to identify if this has occurred and develop a treatment plan to address the root injury.

Certain conditions can also leave you prone to sciatica. Spinal stenosis, in which the lower spinal canal narrows abnormally, is a common cause. This can also be brought on or exacerbated by the impact of a car accident. Other conditions that can lead to sciatic pain include spondylolisthesis and piriformis syndrome.

Treating a Sciatic Flare-Up

If you have experienced sciatica in the past, you can prevent reoccurrences by being cautious throughout daily life. This way if a traumatic event like an accident occurs, you have a lower chance of experiencing the same pain again. Exercising often, including gentle stretches and core work, is a key to maintaining a healthy back. Careful attention to your posture and lifting properly will also be helpful.

If you have been in a period of relief from sciatic pain, it may mean that you have been lucky for some time, or that you have worked with a chiropractor to address the root cause of the pain. When an accident brings the pain back, visiting an accident chiropractor will be key to finding relief as soon as possible.

A history of sciatica may mean that your chiropractor can skip some diagnostic exams, relying on your symptoms and your history. You will likely be prescribed home remedies like ice, heat, and stretching to help relieve immediate symptoms in addition to regular visits to the accident chiropractor.