Sciatica is a very common problem for many people all over the world. This type of pain affects the lower back down through the back of each leg and is a result of the sciatica nerve becoming irritated or compressed.
Sciatica pain can range from mild to extremely painful, and can greatly interfere with daily life.
This article shall examine the various symptoms of this pain, and detail on what can be to done to prevent and counter it.
What is Sciatica?
The sciatica nerve runs from the back of our pelvis all the way down through both legs to the bottom of our feet, and it is the longest nerve in the human body.
On occasions when this nerve becomes compressed or irritated it will immediately become painful, especially around the area where the nerve has been affected.
The severity of this pain will depend on what is wrong with the nerve and the total length of the nerve that is affected, but it is advisable to see your local Doctor immediately if you believe you may suffer from it.
As with the severity of the pain experienced, the symptoms present will depend on the length of nerve affected.
Typical symptoms include pain in the buttocks or leg that is increased when sitting, a burning and or tingling sensation down one or both legs, weakness in the leg or both feet or the inability to control the muscles in the leg, and a continuous pain in the hips or the buttocks and a sharp shooting pain that makes it difficult for the individual to stand unassisted.
Sciatica will typically affect only one side of the lower body, and the pain generally descends down throughout the entire leg.
If the nerve is being compressed or irritated further down the leg then the individual may feel pain or a sensation in their toes.
Sciatica can result in a loss of control of the bladder, and if this happens then seek medical advice immediately.
Sciatica is most commonly caused by a slipped disc in the lower back, which results in the nerve being constantly irritated.
Sciatica can also be caused by lumbar spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal of the lower back.
Degenerative disc disease causes the discs in our spine to break down over time removing the cushioning between our vertebrae leaving the nerve exposed and prone to irritation.
Pregnancy and people who are overweight are also victim to this problem as the increased mass compresses the nerve.
Sciatica can also be a result of wearing high heels or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft for your back.
If you think that you may suffer from sciatica then you should arrange to visit your local Doctor as soon as your schedule permits, as the problem can worsen over time if it is not correctly dealt with.
Your Doctor will review your medical history and look for evidence of the problem, and an examination will be performed on your back, lower back and legs.
If your Doctor is unable to identify the point of irritation or compression, or if the pain is too severe, then you may need to attend a hospital for a series of X-rays and MRI scans. These will pinpoint the problem.
Treatment of sciatica depends on a number of factors. Firstly, the area in which the nerve is affected will determine what is the best course of treatment.
The type of pain induced and the irritation or compression of the nerve will also have an influence on what should be done.
Treatment for sciatica aims to relieve pressure and inflammation allowing the nerve to operate without interference. Medical treatment involves the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Epidural steroid injections have excellent anti-inflammatory properties and are introduced to the nerve at the origin of the pain. Physiotherapy can help prevent sciatica from reoccurring.
If the sciatica is severe and is not responding to the previous treatments then the patient may need surgery. Such surgery is relatively minor and is often completed in a timely manner.
If you have suffered from sciatica or are worried that it may become a problem for you in the future then there are a number of steps you can take to minimize the risk of it occurring.
The most important thing to do is ensure that your posture at work or when sitting is straight and that you are not slouched down into the chair.
If you play sports or regularly engage in exercise then you will need to stretch properly before and after.
Also, simple exercises like stair walking and stretching can help reduce the risk of sciatica.
Having your lower back and legs massaged on a regular basis is an excellent way to maintain good blood flow and prevent the sciatica nerve from becoming trapped or compressed.
The good news is that even though sciatica can be extremely painful, and may have a negative effect on your daily activities, this condition is very rarely life threatening and usually does not cause permanent damage to the nerve.
However, it is important to visit your Doctor if you think you may be suffering from Sciatica as the condition can worsen if not treated, and the treatment process may be prolonged.
The majority of sciatica cases are a result of irritation or compression, and cause the nerve to inflame.
This inflammation can easily be countered with the right anti-inflammatory medicine, and the problem should be solved within a few weeks.
Remember to contact your Doctor immediately if you are experiencing extreme pain or you have lost control of your bladder, as this is a sign that something serious is occurring.