Sciatica – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Sciatica is an intense pain that is felt from the lower back till the buttocks region and even beyond that till your leg. Often, sciatica will affect only one side of the body causing pain. Sciatic nerve is present in the herniated disk of the spine and when it gets compressed it causes pain.

The area becomes inflamed and it can cause numbness in that region of the leg. In most of the cases, taking pain killer medications will resolve the problem. Only for severe pain caused by sciatica surgery is done to relieve the pressure from the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica Symptoms

  •  There will be moderate to intense pain in the lower back which becomes intense when you sit down.
  •  Burning pain or tingling sensation on the leg
  •  Difficulty in moving the legs or foot of the affected side
  •  Pain will be continuous on one side of the back portion
  •  The pain becomes worse when the affected person attempts to stand up
  •  It comes as an electric shock and intense pain is felt when you are coughing and sneezing
  •  In rare cases it causes loss of bowel control

Depending on the intensity by which the sciatica nerve is affected the pain may be moderate or severe. Sometimes the pain will extend till the foot and even toes.

Sciatica Causes

Sciatica pain is caused when the sciatic nerve gets compressed or irritated. It can occur due to the continuous pressure build-up in the lower lumbar region. Lowering of the passage of spinal canal can also cause sciatica.

Degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis can cause intense pain on the sciatic nerve. Herniated disk and overgrowth of bone on the vertebral column can cause sciatica. Chronic condition of diabetes can intensify the pain.

Risk Factors

Getting old, over-weight, work related stress caused on the lower back and prolonged sitting hours can increase the risk of sciatica. In rare cases, it can cause weakness and loss of feeling on the affected side of the leg. Also it can cause loss of bowel movement affecting the bladder function.

Diagnoses and Tests

The doctor will look for the symptoms and will check the muscle strength on the affected area. He will ask you to walk on your heels and stand up in different positions to check if the pain worsens. He may order for imaging tests like X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan which will give a clear picture about the affected bones and soft tissues of the herniated disks.

Sciatica Treatment

For mild to moderate pain it will resolve if you take rest and no treatment is required. Your doctor may prescribe medications for muscle relaxation and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling in the affected area.

In severe cases, antidepressant or anti-seizure medicines are prescribed to reduce the pain. Physiotherapy is recommended for the affected people to strengthen the muscles, but it can be done only after the pain improves. Exercises are done for correcting the posture and supporting your back.

Steroid injections are given for quick relief from pain. The shot is given on the area of the affected nerve root. It is effective in healing inflammation and reducing pain but it produces serious side effects.

Surgery is the last option for sciatica and is done only if the symptoms are not improving and not responding to any other treatment options. For some people who have lost bowel control surgery is done. Your surgeon will gently remove the excess of bone growth from the herniated disk that pinches the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica Relief Home Remedies

You need to understand the set of activities that triggers and intensifies the pain and avoid those activities. Taking complete rest for couple of days will give you relief temporarily. You can apply cold packs or hot packs to the areas where pain is felt intensely.

You can try using alternate hot and cold packs on the same area. Stretching exercises can be done for getting relief from compression of nerve root. Avoid doing any sudden jerking movement or twisting movements. Some people depend on alternative methods like acupuncture and chiropractic massage for improving the functions.

Sciatica Prevention

You cannot prevent sciatica but you can be careful to take precautionary methods for added protection. Do regular exercises giving more focus on the core muscles of the lower back and abdomen. Always maintain proper posture while standing up and sitting.

Make sure that you have enough support for your back while sitting. You can keep a soft pillow on your back when your work warrants sitting for long hours. Get up and do some stretching exercises frequently. While lifting heavy objects always hold the load closer and avoid twisting movements.

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