The pain associated with the condition of sciatica is due to damage to the individual’s nerve tissue. In most cases, this nerve damage is not permanent.
However, there are some signs that could indicate a more serious condition, which will require immediate medical assistance, such as the following:
- If you feel numbness and/or weakness, surgery may be necessary- so if you are experiencing this
- If you experience bladder and/or bowel incontinence and/or an increase in weakness or loss of sensation in your legs
Separating Fact from Fiction about Sciatica
Your sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and travels down to your toes. This is true- your sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in your entire body.
It starts in the front of the piriformis muscle, which is deep in your buttocks, and encompasses the lowest two nerves exiting the lower spine- your L4 and L5 vertebrae- and your first three sacral nerves- your S1, S2, & S3.
Each one of these nerves has two branches, one on each side of your spine. The root of each of these nerves exits your spine between two of the vertebrae in your lower back, travels down the back of each one of your legs, and then branches out of your leg into each one of your feet.
Pain that radiates along your sciatic nerve is excruciating- and can even be debilitating for many individuals.
Leg Pain caused by sciatica is due to a problem in your lower back. This is true- even though most people believe that when they experience leg pain, it means that there is something going wrong with their legs.
However, due to the fact that your sciatic nerve goes through your lower back, into your legs, and finally into your feet, problems resulting in nerve compression in your lower back can cause you to experience pain in your lower back, your legs, your feet, and even sometimes causes your toes to be in pain.
The condition of sciatica is not genetic. Sciatica is the result of problems in the lower back that can be caused by the process of aging or an injury to the spine. Though many people seem to think that these conditions are genetic, they are not.
The condition of piriformis syndrome feels much like the condition of sciatica- but they are actually two completely different conditions.
When your piriformis muscle becomes tight, it can cause irritation to your sciatic nerve, which can result in pain that is much like sciatica, including numbness and/or tingling that runs from your lower back through your rear and down your legs into your feet.
So, though the discomfort caused from piriformis syndrome is much like that of sciatica, they are the result of two different things.
Piriformis syndrome isn’t the result of a compressed nerve root, as sciatica is. Learning how to tell the difference can help with finding the right treatment.
Pain due to joint problems or arthritis is much more common than the condition of sciatica- and they are not related to each other at all- though they are often confused.
The truth is that arthritis and related conditions and the condition of sciatica actually are two completely different types of pain.
As already mentioned, sciatica is a radicular pain and is the result of a pinched nerve. Referred leg pain due to arthritis is often a dull and achy pain, and will move around and vary in intensity.
Again, learning to tell the difference between the two can help you to find an effective treatment for your condition.
Due to the fact that there are many different conditions that can cause nerve roots to become compressed and result in the condition of sciatica- one individual’s treatment options will most likely be much different than those for someone else.
Of course, no matter who you are or what the cause of your sciatica, a combination of treatments is typically the most effective choice. Following are a few of the most common treatment options:
- Chiropractic treatments and physical therapy are often effective for relieving pressure on your sciatic nerve
- Using ice massage and heat therapies are often effective for relieving acute pain due to the condition of sciatica
- Anti-inflammatory medications and/or oral steroids are often used to relieve inflammation
- Steroid injections are often used to relieve inflammation around the nerve root and the back pain associated with this inflammation
- If you are using other non-surgical treatments, you can use pain medications (OTC or prescription, depending on the choice you and your physician make)
- Surgery may be considered as an option for treatment- typically only after the nonsurgical, or conservative, treatments have not been effective
While sciatica is typically a short term condition- lasting only a few weeks when conservative treatments are used- this may not be true for everyone.
In some cases, the condition of sciatica may last for several months. This is why there are so many treatment options that must be adjusted according to the individual.
In some cases, surgery really is the best option. Of course, there is a fine line you must walk- surgery should not be done too early or too late.
You should give yourself time to use some of the more conservative treatments first- but if those do not work, you should not be suffering.
If you have reached a point where you have lost some of your functioning, surgery may be your best option.
While sciatic pain is typically excruciating, and can even be debilitating in some cases- if it causes you to have bladder and/or bowel incontinence, you should see your physician as soon as possible.
This way, you will be able to work together to rule out other more serious conditions.
If you are suffering from sciatica, the best thing to do is to take care of yourself- get adequate rest and exercise, but don’t do too much.
You want to give that nerve time to heal so that you can get back to your normal routine as soon as possible.