Helping teenage athletes avoid future sciatica

Sciatica, the set of symptoms associated with the compression of the sciatic nerve in your lower back, often originates from activities performed and injuries suffered during your 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 reappear in your adult years in the form of sciatica pain.

How teenage injuries cause sciatica

Why, and how, would an injury suffered 20 or more years ago begin to cause back problems in your 30s and 40s?

It’s simple anatomy. As the body ages, the spine begins to weaken and 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 spine — changes that might accelerate the degeneration process of the spine 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 a disc or a facet joint may have been jarred out of place. Even if it’s a temporary displacement, it could result in scar tissue that may have a profound effect on the stability of the still-developing spine. Later, that instability could cause compression of the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica.

Preventing sciatica

If the teenage years are so crucial to spine health later in life, how can teenagers prevent injuries that may result in future sciatica?

The answer is that they can’t. No two people experience spinal weakening and injury in exactly the same way, and the process of the natural aging of the spine is virtually unpredictable.

However, there are a few methods of precaution that can be taken with teenage injuries to help prevent the damage from turning into sciatica or another condition later in life. Teenagers who hurt their backs — even slightly — should visit a physician to make sure that there are no potential long-term complications.

If you are an adult and you are experiencing the chronic and excruciating pain of sciatica, contact Laser Spine Institute to see if one of our minimally invasive spine surgeries is right for you. We offer several advantages over traditional open back surgery, including shorter recovery time,^ and a lower risk of complication and infection.

Contact us today to learn more about the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery and to have our team review your MRI report or CT scan.

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