What is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to the pain radiating along the path of a person’s Sciatic nerve, a nerve that branches from the lower back through to the hips, buttocks, and down to each leg. Sciatica arises because of inflammation in the nerve and usually arises only on one side of the body.
Sciatica symptoms differ from person to person depending on the types of sciatica i.e. severity of pain, age, and where the sciatic nerve is affected. Different age groups will be affected differently. Some of the common symptoms have been listed below for your understanding:
- Inflammation in one of the legs
- Numbness, weakness, or difficulty in moving leg or foot
- Lower back pain
- Hip, thigh or calves pain
- A constant sense of pain in one leg
- Burning or tingling sensation in one leg
P.S. Sciatica Pain can be severe and debilitating. Although not frequent, pain can grow over time.
Who is at Risk?
Sciatica risk factors differ from individual to individual as age, medical condition, etc has a role to play in it. Certain red flags for when an individual might be at risk are:
- With age, Sciatica pain can arise as the body becomes weak and nerve functioning start declining
- People who indulge in activities that create too much strain on the back and legs i.e. weight lifting, climbing, sitting for extended periods, tough movements, etc.
- Diabetic patients are at a higher risk of nerve damage
- People who smoke are at an elevated risk as it causes the outer layer of the Spinal disk to break down
Sciatica causes can involve severe conditions that involve pain in the spine, or any injury that affects the nerves running along your back. Here are some of the common reasons for sciatica for you down below:
- Herniated Disks – Herniated Disk occur when the first layer of Cartilage rips i.e. your vertebrae weakens
- Spinal Stenosis – Abnormal narrowing of the lower spinal canal
- Spondylolisthesis – Degenerative Risk Disorder where one spinal cord or vertebrae extends over another
- Piriformis Syndrome – Neuromuscular Disorder where the piriformis muscle involuntarily contracts or tightens
- Disoriented Body Posture – Wrong body posture can create pressure across certain areas of the spine and lower back creating Sciatica pain
- Injury – Lower back, spinal cord, or hip injuries
How is Sciatica diagnosed?
For Sciatica diagnosis a doctor will first want to get your medical history and then conduct a series of tests. These include:
- Medical history: A report of recent injuries, pain frequency, etc is created to understand how what and when the pain occurred
- Physical Examination: Testing the muscle strength and reflexes, the doctor recommends some exercises to determine the activities that cause more pain
- Sciatica Test: CT Scans, MRIs and E-rays are done to examine how nerve impulses are being conducted by the sciatic nerve and if there are any abnormalities
- CT Myelogram: Special test conducted to get a clearer picture of the spinal cord and Sciatic Nerve
How is Sciatica treated?
On the first diagnosis, sciatica doctor usually devises exercises and lifestyle habits for Sciatica treatment. This is done to help ease the pain and prevent activities that are worsening the condition. Here is how the treatment is done:
- Physical Therapy: Exercises, body posture awareness, stretching, etc is designed to help relieve from pain and prevent worsening
- Hot and Cold Therapy: Ice packs or heating pads are used to reduce swelling and ease pain
- Medicine for sciatica: Over-the-counter medications are advised for muscle relaxation, narcotic pain relief, and endorphin production
- Surgery: When the pain goes beyond control and the patient is losing control on bowel or bladder, surgery is done to remove parts of the disk that is pressing on the nerves that make up sciatica nerve
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Alternative treatments include:
- Chiro Practice
- Message Therapy
How can Sciatica be prevented?
Prevention of sciatica is done through a number of things that are very simple in nature:
- Exercise Daily – Maintain a healthy exercise routine and work on your core muscles to strengthen back muscles
- Maintaining Body Posture – Mind your body postures and correct them when you are walking, sitting, moving or lying on the bed
- Taking care of muscles – Mind what you lift and how you lift it. Excessive weight lifting can create muscle stress