What is the Sciatica Nerve?
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It begins in the lower back and extends through the buttocks down the back of each leg to the thighs and feet. It plays a vital role in connecting the spinal cord with the skin and muscles of the thigh, leg and foot.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a painful condition caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The nerve can be compressed or inflamed by a number of problems in the lower back. It originates in the lower back and spreads deep into the buttocks and down the leg, Sciatica can be acute (short term), lasting for a few weeks or chronic (long term), persisting for more than 3 months. It is important to understand that in most cases, sciatica will resolve itself within a few weeks or months and rarely causes permanent nerve damage.
Risk Factors for Sciatica
Anyone can develop sciatica at some point in their lives; however, there are certain risk factors that may predispose you to develop sciatica. These include older age, poor physical fitness or inactive lifestyle, genetics, poor nutrition, medical conditions like diabetes and even smoking. If the core of your body is weak, that is the muscles of your back and abdomen, that can also be a contributing factor. However, sometimes physical fitness may not help you if your overall posture is poor. Lastly, people who sit for long periods of time, and have a sedentary lifestyle are also prone to sciatica. To learn more about the risk factors, it is good to visit a sciatica pain doctor.
Causes of Sciatica
It is important to know that sciatica is a symptom but not a medical diagnosis. Some medical conditions that can cause sciatica include herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, diabetes, tumours, and trauma.
Symptoms of Sciatica
The most common symptom of sciatica is pain. The pain can vary from mild to debilitating depending on the degree of pressure exerted on the sciatic nerve. Patients having sciatica also experience symptoms such as pain in the buttock area and leg. It is a sharp and intense pain that shoots down the leg. Some people can feel a certain amount of numbness, burning or tingling sensation in the leg or foot. Weakness in the leg and foot is also possible. Additionally, people can experience lower back pain that radiates down the buttock and leg. Pain can increase with bending backwards and with prolonged sitting or standing. If the pain increases with coughing, sneezing or straining it is good to seek attention from a sciatica doctor.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
Sciatica is diagnosed by reviewing your complete medical history, performing a physical examination and assessment of neuromuscular functions. The sciatica doctor may check your muscles and reflexes. They may ask you to do simple things such as walking on your toes or heels, lifting your legs, rising from a squatting position etc. This is to observe how efficiently your body is able to perform these tasks. After this, they may conduct diagnostic procedures such as X-ray, MRI, CT scan, CT scan with myelogram, electromyogram, and nerve conduction tests may also be ordered.
Treatment of Sciatica
There are certain home remedies that may help relieve the pain. Sciatica can be treated with conservative approaches such as physical exercises, over-the-counter drugs, ice or hot packs, prescription medications, epidural steroid injections, massages, and manual manipulation. A sciatic pain doctor may recommend some stretching exercises and develop a routine for you to do them. They will make sure that your form is also correct while doing them so that you don’t injure yourself further.
It is important to remember that activity will help relieve the pain, hence limit your bed rest and sitting time as much as possible. Sleep on a firm mattress or even on the floor. Certain other methods like massages, yoga, and acupuncture can also be beneficial, however, it’s best to do it under the guidance of your sciatica pain doctor. Certain over-the-counter medicines can also be helpful. Medicines like muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory tablets will help treat the pain.
In some cases, the sciatica doctor may recommend surgery to treat the underlying condition causing sciatica such as herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative disc disease.
When To See A Doctor?
If you’ve tried the above treatments and the pain still doesn’t go away, you will need to see a sciatica pain doctor. Other symptoms that are a cause for concern are intense pain, redness, swelling and fever.
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