If you have ever suffered from sciatica you will know how painful and disruptive it can be. Sciatica can stop you from being able to do the most basic things such as walking, bending or sitting and severely interrupt your life.
WHAT IS THE SCIATIC NERVE?
The sciatic nerve is the name of the longest nerve in your body. The spinal sections it originates from include L4, L5 or S1. It travels from your lower back out through your buttocks and down your leg to your knee, calf, foot, and toes. Your brain connects with the muscles in the lower leg and feet via the sciatic nerve, controlling muscle activity and sensation in your leg. It is vital for the control of your movement, sensation and balance
WHAT IS SCIATICA?
The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness, or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg, and is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Common lower back problems that can cause sciatica symptoms include a bulging or herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis or piriformis syndrome.
Sciatic pain can be anything from a mild ache to levels of pain of such severe intensity simple tasks such as walking, bending, sitting or even just standing up can be difficult and in some cases impossible.
MORE CAUSES OF SCIATICA
In addition to the most common causes, a number of other conditions can cause sciatica, including:
- Pregnancy. The changes the body goes through during pregnancy, including weight gain, a shift of one’s center of gravity, and hormonal changes, can cause sciatica during pregnancy.
- Scar tissue. If scar tissue—also called epidural fibrosis—compresses to a lumbar nerve root, it can cause sciatica
- Muscle strain. In some cases, inflammation related to a lower muscle strain and/or muscle spasm can put pressure on a nerve root and cause sciatica pain.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SCIATICA
The symptoms of Sciatica are usually a combination of:
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely in both legs)
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling, or searing (versus a dull ache)
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, and/or toes
- A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk
- Pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes
These symptoms will vary depending on many different factors, including the cause and location of the symptoms. While these symptoms can be severe and debilitating, it is rare that the sciatic nerve is permanently damaged.
With sciatica most people will find that:
- Pain is worse when sitting or standing
- Pain improves when lying down or walking
- It difficult to stand up or walk normally
- Pain is aggravated by sneezing or coughing
TREATMENT FOR SCIATICA
If you suffer from sciatica it most likely started from a functional, mechanical problem in your spine. The initial aim of your treatment is to remove the irritation of the nerve, reduce inflammation in the area and improve the movement in your spine.
It is important you stop aggravating the problem further by avoiding activities such as bending, lifting and prolonged sitting. In severe cases, you will need painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication to help control the symptoms while the cause is removed.
Massage therapy helps alleviate sciatic nerve pain in 2 ways:
- Tight lower back muscles can place stress on your nerve roots. Massage therapy loosens these muscles and helps prevent pinching or irritation.
- A massage encourages the release of pain-fighting endorphins—this can provide temporary relief from symptoms like the throbbing pain in your foot or the burning sensation in your leg.
For acute sciatic pain, heat and/or ice packs can help alleviate the leg pain, especially in the initial phase. Usually ice or heat is applied for approximately 20 minutes and repeated every two hours. Most people use ice first, but some find more relief with heat. The two may be alternated. It is best to apply ice with a cloth or towel placed between the ice and skin to avoid an ice burn.
Exercise regularly. To keep your back strong, pay special attention to your core muscles — the muscles in your abdomen and lower back that are essential for proper posture and alignment. Ask your doctor to recommend specific activities.
Maintain proper posture when you sit. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level.
Use good body mechanics. If you stand for long periods, rest one foot on a stool or small box from time to time. When you lift something heavy, let your lower extremities do the work. Move straight up and down. Keep your back straight and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Avoid lifting and twisting simultaneously. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward.
references from: spine-health.com, mayoclinic.org