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Sciatica affects people differently. It can affect you anywhere along your sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back, through your buttocks, and down the back of each leg to your big toes. But the one common symptom for people with sciatica is pain.

About 40% of people get sciatica at some point in their lifetime. The good news is that in most cases, the condition resolves within a few days with noninvasive treatments. In severe cases when the pain is frequent and interferes with your life, you may need surgery.

Everyone is at risk of developing sciatica, but some factors put you at higher risk than others. Our medical team at Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates shares which factors put you at a higher risk of developing sciatica so you can take the necessary steps to improve your back health.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain and discomfort anywhere along your sciatic nerve. Sciatica symptoms, including pain, weakness, and numbness, usually affect only one side of your body. A typical case of sciatica involves pain radiating from your lower back down the back of your leg.

Sciatica is commonly caused by a compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve due to a herniated disc, bone spur on the spine, or spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine.

Risk factors for sciatica

Knowing the risk factors of this common back ailment can help you reduce your chances of developing it. But not all risk factors are things you can modify.

For example, men experience sciatica three times as frequently as women, and people in their 40s and 50s are at higher risk than people in their 20s and 30s. As you get older, age-related changes in your back and spine put you more at risk of sciatica.

Here are some other risk factors:

Being overweight

The more weight you carry, the more pressure you put on your back and spine. This can lead to strains, disc issues, and other back problems, including sciatica.

Not exercising regularly

An inactive lifestyle, which can include prolonged sitting and lack of exercise, are risk factors for developing sciatica and can lead to weak muscle tone. Your core or abdominal muscles are especially important for back health and lower back support.

Your job

Jobs that require heavy lifting and a lot of twisting can strain your back and contribute to back pain and problems. Additionally, a job that entails sitting for long periods of time can also weaken your back and put stress on your sciatic nerve.


Diabetes that isn’t managed properly can lead to nerve damage in your hands, legs, and feet. Over time, diabetes can also affect your sciatic nerve, which can lead to sciatica.

Are you experiencing back and leg pain? Do you think you may have sciatica? Call the office of Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California, for an appointment.

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