Sciatica is characterized by a debilitating and sometimes severe pain that affects the large sciatic nerve, running along the lower back down to the legs. Millions of Americans suffer from this. A basic understanding of sciatica is helpful in managing the pain and finding the right treatment. To erase the confusion about this condition and to help people suffering from it, here’s some information on sciatica you should know.
Sciatica is a condition that affects the “sciatic nerve.” The symptoms occur when the sciatic nerve is affected due to compression or irritation. This is the largest single nerve in the body. It is made up of various individual nerve rods that branch out from the lower back, particularly the spine in said area. Here are some things you should know about the sciatic nerve:
- It runs from the lower back down to the legs
- The nerve starts from the lumbar segment 3 found in the lower back
- The sciatic nerve branches out to each of the legs and further to the calf, thigh, foot and even down to the toes
Sciatica can range from an infrequent, tolerable though irritating pain to debilitating constant pain. The symptoms and the severity of the pain vary, as these are based on the location of the affected nerve. While sciatica very rarely results to sciatic nerve damage, the pain is still not that so easy to tolerate and handle. The common symptoms of sciatica are the following:
- Sharp pain in the affected and surrounding area, which can make it difficult for a person to walk or stand up
- Pain radiating down the legs
- Constant pain in the buttock or leg, which is usually on one side only
- Burning, searing or tingling pain in the leg
- Pain gets worst when sitting
- Numbness and weakness in the leg down to the foot
Causes of Sciatica
Addressing the pain and finding an effective treatment usually starts by understanding and determining the underlying cause. Knowing the cause(s) of sciatica is important in alleviating the acute symptoms and finding the right treatment. While there are many possible causes of sciatica, the following lower back problems are the most common:
- Degenerative Disc Disease
This is one of the common causes of sciatica pain. The degenerated discs in the lower back can cause irritation in the nerve root in the area which can then give rise to the symptoms.
- Lumbar Herniated Disc
This happens when the inner material of the lumbar disc herniates and leaks out to the fibrous outer core. This can irritate and pinch the nerve root, which then leads to pain and other sciatica symptoms.
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
This condition is more common in people aged 60 years and above. This is because it is usually related to or it develops due to the natural aging of the spine. This can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal, which then triggers the occurrence of sciatica.
- Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint is found at the bottom part of the spine. When there’s irritation in this joint, it can also cause irritation to the L5 nerve, which then causes sciatica.
- Piriformis Syndrome
This happens when the piriformis muscle located in the buttock pinches and irritates the nerve root of the sciatic nerve. This can then cause sciatic pain.
- Isthmic Spondylolisthesis
This develops due to a stress fracture in the vertebral body, such as when the L5 vertebra, due to a small stress fracture, slips forward on the S1 vertebra.
There are various treatments for sciatica. These are to ease the neurological symptoms and relieve the pain you’re suffering from. While there are other sciatica treatments available, you can try these nonsurgical treatments on your own or with help and guidance from a professional.
Applying Heat or Ice
Heat or ice gives temporary relief. This is usually helpful during the initial phase. The main advantage of this treatment is that heat or ice are very available. When using such as temporary treatment, apply the heat or ice in the leg or the part where there is pain for around 20 minutes. Repeat this every couple of hours. When applying ice, do not directly put it on your skin as this might cause ice burn. It’s best if you wrap it with a towel or cloth. You can alternate heat and ice for better results.
Taking Pain Medications
There are various pain medications you can easily buy at a drugstore. These meds are designed to relieve and reduce pain. You can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen. Muscle relaxants, narcotic medications and oral steroids can also alleviate the pain and reduce the possible inflammation. However, taking such medications must only be for short term.
Epidural Steroid Injections
Only resort to this treatment if the pain is serious and severe. Epidural steroid injection can directly address the inflammation and effect on the painful area near the sciatic nerve. This is effective in reducing inflammation and relieving acute sciatic pain. However, this is not as effective as long-term treatment.
Whatever the treatment may be, it is always best if coupled with proper exercise and diet. If you have the means and if you really want to ensure a more efficient treatment, seek help from the professionals. We can help you with your sciatic nerve pain problem. Simply contact us and we will book an appointment today. Let us help you live a pain-free life.