If you’ve ever had sciatica, you know it can be infuriating. No matter which position you move your body, the pain or numbness may not go away.
Patients often describe it to me as a sharp, stinging pain. This can be done with numbness (decreased sensation), hypersensitivity (in which even the lightest touch is uncomfortable), burning, or pins and needles (called paresthesia).
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition that causes pain in your lower back that travels to your hips, buttocks, and legs. The condition is named for the sciatic nerve, which runs along that part of the body in the leg.
Sciatica can be caused by a herniated disc, a bone in the spine, arthritis, or spinal stenosis, which forms along the spine as an area and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Sciatica can also be caused by a malfunction or slippage of one vertebra over another. Sometimes, sciatica only causes pain in the buttocks and thighs (and not below the knees). In that case, it is called claudication.
Symptoms of sciatica
In addition to just pain, some common symptoms are muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling. It can express itself in different ways. Sometimes the pain can feel like an electric shock. Other times, it’s more of a burning sensation. Or it’s possible to have pain on one side of your body and numbness on the other. The stiffness is usually worse on standing and walking. Leaning forward (such as holding a shopping cart) helps relieve walking.
Although these symptoms may seem like they would require extensive treatment, sciatica usually improves over time.
Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or Tylenol is the primary treatment. Sometimes your doctor will add another medicine, such as gabapentin or pregabalin, to help direct the nerves. Steroids also play a role in reducing the swelling around the herniated disc and reducing pain. Swelling or swelling can be very painful.
Sometimes, we use steroids or cortisone to help break the cycle of inflammation and ease your pain. Consult your doctor or another provider before taking any medicine. Discuss the possibility of physical therapy, or perhaps even acupuncture, to relieve your symptoms.
Lying in bed probably won’t help. Resist the urge to stay in bed. Movement and stretching are important for increasing your activity. Try stretching and getting into positions that reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve.
However, if you have a more severe case of sciatica, it is important to see a doctor. Otherwise, you run the risk of permanent nerve damage. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should see your doctor about treatment options, which include, but are not limited to:
- You suddenly feel severe pain in your legs and lower back.
- you completely lose feeling in one leg.
- You suddenly begin to experience symptoms of sciatica as a result of an injury or accident, such as a car accident.
- you have difficulty lifting your knee, ankle, or leg.
- you have a drop-foot.
- You start having trouble controlling your bladder and bowels.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if your sciatica symptoms last for about six weeks, but fortunately, sciatica symptoms don’t last that long in most cases.
There are several risk factors for sciatica. They include age – the older you get, the more likely you are to get a spinal injury that can lead to sciatica. Overweight people put more pressure on their spine, which can lead to sciatica and other physical ailments. A more sedentary lifestyle is believed to be associated with sciatica; This can include people who drive for a living.
On the other hand, people who have jobs that involve physical labor often develop sciatica. Pregnant women tend to gain extra weight during pregnancy, which can put them at greater risk. People with diabetes are at greater risk of nerve damage, including sciatica.
Cause of sciatica
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, usually by a herniated disc in your spine or by overgrowth of bone (bone spur) on your vertebrae. Rarely, the nerve may be compressed by a tumor or damaged by a disease such as diabetes.
Risk of sciatica
Risk factors for sciatica include:
Age: Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated discs and bone spurs, are the most common causes of sciatica.
Obesity: By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight can contribute to changes in the spine that trigger sciatica.
Occupations: Business A job that requires you to bend your back, lift heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods of time may play a role in sciatica, but there is no conclusive evidence of this link.
sitting for a long time. People who sit for long periods of time or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than active people.
Diabetes: This condition, which affects the way your body uses blood sugar, increases your risk of nerve damage.
Complications of sciatica
Although most people make a full recovery from sciatica, often without treatment, sciatica can potentially lead to permanent nerve damage. Seek immediate medical attention if you have:
- loss of feeling in the affected leg.
- weakness in the affected leg.
- loss of bowel or bladder function.
Prevention of sciatica
It is not always possible to prevent sciatica, and the condition may recur. The following can play an important role in protecting your back:
Exercise regularly. To keep your back strong, pay special attention to your core muscles, your abdominal and lower back muscles that are essential for proper posture and alignment. Ask your doctor to recommend specific activities.
Maintain proper posture while sitting. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests, and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or rolled-up towel across the small of your back to maintain your normal curve. Keep your knees and hips flat.
Use good body mechanics. If you stand for long periods of time, put one foot on a stool or small box from time to time. When you lift something heavy, let your lower limbs do the work. Move straight up and down. Keep your back straight and bend at the knees. Keep the weight close to your body. Avoid lifting and rotating simultaneously. If the item is heavy or awkward, find a lifting partner.