What is Sciatica?

I want to talk about Sciatica. It’s a lower back pain. Sciatica comes without warning. A sharp move, a hasty weightlifting and …

Sciatica is the term used to describe nerve pain in the buttocks, legs, and feet. It is caused when the sciatic nerve – the longest nerve in the body – becomes compressed or irritated. If you’re suffering from pain that radiates down the back of your leg and into your feet, it could be sciatica.

 

Sciatica has been reported to occur in 1 to 10% of the population, most commonly in people age 25 to 45 years.

Risk Factors

Injury to the sciatic nerve is most commonly caused by entrapment of the nerve at the base of the spine, which may be related to prolonged sitting or lying with pressure on the buttocks. Most of the time people with sciatica do not recall a specific injury that caused the symptoms.

Sciatica can also be caused by pelvic fractures, gunshot wounds and other trauma to the buttocks or thighs. Spinal stenosis, which occurs as people get older, can but pressure on the sciatic nerve on both sides and this can result in sciatica on both sides of the body. Masses in the pelvis such as a tumor, abscess or bleeding can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve.

 

How is it Diagnosed

Sciatica is a clinical diagnosis and does not usually require any investigations. In some cases, when the diagnosis is uncertain or if the pain is not spontaneously resolving, imaging and other investigations may be required.

 

 

What is the Sciatic Nerve?

The sciatic nerve starts at the lower spine before running through the buttock, down the back of the thigh and into the foot. It’s an important nerve that sends signals from the spinal cord to the entire lower body.

Because of its location and length, the sciatic nerve has a variety of functions. That’s why sciatica can result in pain throughout the entire lower body, and can even lead to coughing, sneezing and muscle contractions.

What Causes Sciatica?

There are a number of potential causes for a compressed or irritated sciatic nerve. Some of the most common include:

  • Slipped disc. If the outer casing of a disc in your spine becomes herniated, the interior of the disc bulges more than it should. This can lead to compression of the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain and discomfort.
  • Spinal injury. If you injure your spine or the muscles that support the spine, inflammation can press on the sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal stenosis. Sometimes the passage holding the spinal cord can become narrowed – often due to large ligaments. In some cases, this can cause compression on the sciatic nerve. Spinal stenosis often results in pain in the lower back.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This is a condition where a vertebra moves more than it should. It can either be caused by aging or repeatedly bending the spine in an unnatural way.
  • Spinal infection. This is less common but is a potential cause of sciatic pain.

The amount of pain, loss of sensation or tingling can vary depending on how much the nerve has been compressed or irritated. The location of the nerve compression can also affect where the pain radiates.

How is Sciatica Treated?

Each cause of sciatica requires a specific treatment plan to effectively reduce compression on the sciatic nerve and eliminate pain.

Traditional treatment for sciatica usually involves a combination of pain-killing medications and rest. This can sometimes be effective at reducing pain in the short-term. The problem is that it only treats the symptoms of sciatica, meaning the pain often returns at a later date.

Physiotherapy exercises are another common treatment. Unlike pain-killing medication, these exercises treat the underlying problem – but it’s vital that the right exercises are performed for a specific cause of sciatica. The wrong exercises can worsen pain and increase the time taken for recovery.

Personally, for my lower pain problems, I prefer a program of exercises that I often do. This has helped me out a lot in getting rid of the pain.

I will talk about this special program, in a future article.

Stay tuned…

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