Helping Teenage Athletes Avoid Future Sciatica

Sciatica, the set of symptoms associated with compression of the sciatic nerve, often has its origins in activities performed and injuries suffered during the teenage years. That shooting pain, tingling, numbness and/or muscle weakness you’re experiencing in your late 30s or early 40s could actually be traced back to a hard tackle you made for the high school football team, or a nasty spill you took on the ski slopes during a family winter vacation to the mountains. Even if you only felt temporary soreness back then, it can come back to haunt you in your adult years in the form of sciatica.

How teenage injuries manifest sciatica

Why, and how, would an injury suffered 20 or more years ago begin to cause back problems in your 30s? It’s simple anatomy. As the body ages, the anatomical components of the spine begin to break down due to years of wear and tear. The greater the strain on your neck and back, the faster the deterioration occurs. A neck or back injury suffered during the teenage years might not cause immediate problems, but as it heals, it could create small changes within the spinal anatomy, changes that might exacerbate the degeneration process later in life. For example, if you took a blow to the lower back as a teenager, even if you never felt the need to see a physician about it, there’s a chance an intervertebral disc or a facet joint might have been jarred out of place. Even if it’s a temporary displacement, it could result in scar tissue that might have a profound effect on the stability of the still-developing spinal anatomy. Later, that instability could cause compression of the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica .

Preventing sciatica

The question then becomes, “How can teenagers who suffer (minor) back injuries be sure they won’t develop sciatica later in life?” The answer is that they can’t. No two people experience anatomical degeneration in exactly the same way, and the process is virtually unpredictable. However, teenagers who hurt their backs – even slightly – should visit a physician to make sure that there are no potential long-term complications. If you find yourself experiencing sciatica and none of the treatments you’ve tried are working, contact Laser Spine Institute to determine whether you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.