If you feel pain in your lower middle back when you stretch or…
..bend and it goes straight down to your legs, then you might be suffering sciatica.
Sciatica can be an incredibly painful condition when there is nerve damage or pressure on the largest nerve in the body (sciatic nerve).
It runs from the bottom of the spine, through the hip, knee and to the ankle.
Sciatica is a condition characterized by a sharp pain in the lower back, hip or leg as well as tingling, numbness, or weakness in the leg, usually on one side.
But what is sciatica?
Sciatica in a simple form means the pain that occurs due to the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The pain usually begins in the lower middle back and continues down to the calf and foot depending nerve root affected. Sciatica is a symptom of another medical condition and not a disorder at all. A herniated disc is what the suffering of sciatica is experiencing. Any factor that causes irritation and inflammation to the sciatic nerve is a symptom of sciatica.
This nerve will end up cause pain and often resembles a leg cramp when it becomes inflamed or irritated. This can make sitting nor standing easily due to the intensity of pain it inflicts. This pain also becomes aggravated when sneezing, sitting, or coughing. Pain in acute sciatica usually lasts for four to eight weeks and diminishes on its own depending on the causative agent.
The most prominent symptom of sciatica is a pain that travels along the sciatic nerve path. Discomfort is most usually felt between the lower back through to the upper leg. The level of pain experienced can range from a light burning sensation to a deep stabbing pain. Numbness and weakness can also be a sign that you are suffering from sciatica symptoms. A tingling sensation most usually accompanies the numbness and weakness feeling. In extreme cases, a loss of bowel and bladder control is experienced. If you experience a loss of bladder and bowel control, please seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Causes of sciatica:
Sciatica is caused when there is a disruption in the normal working of the sciatic nerve. The most common cause of herniated spinal disc in which the normal cushioning between the vertebrae is ruptured thereby causing pressure on the nearby nerves; the sciatic nerve is one of them. A hernia in the vertebra of the spine pushes the discs against the nerves causing pain, weakness and other symptoms. Other reasons that cause sciatica are:
- Spondylolisthesis: when one of the vertebrae of the spine goes out of line as compared to the one above it, then it narrows the opening from where the nerve exits, causing pain.
- Spinal stenosis: under this condition, the spinal canal is narrowed causing pressure on the nerves.
- Piriformis syndrome: the piriformis muscle in the buttocks when tightens causes pressure on the sciatic nerve causing pain and weakness.
The significant risk factors for your experiencing sciatica pain are:
- Age: The discs of your spine deteriorate over time. Being over the age of 40 dramatically increases your risk for sciatica due to bulging or degenerated spinal discs.
- Occupation: If your job requires that you sit or stand for extended periods of time, if you lift heavy objects or bend repeatedly, or drive a vehicle for the majority of your day.
- Diabetes: Diabetes increases your chance for experiencing nerve damage due to the fact diabetes alters the way your body uses its blood supply. If your nerves do not receive the proper amount of blood, they can become damaged.
Characteristics of Sciatica:
- You will have a continuous pain running through the buttocks down to the leg, or foot from the pinched area in your back.
- This pain in the leg will make it very difficult to stand.
- Lying down or sitting can make it worse.
- You will find a weakness or numbness of the leg, and it will be difficult to move.
- The pain can be described as a very sharp, stinging pain that can at times become unbearable.
Treatments available for sciatica pain:
The treatment may vary from hot to cold packs, exercises, medications and alternative remedies.
- Oral medications
Your doctors will recommend some over the counter pain relievers like Aspirin and others. Muscle relaxants are used for muscle spasms, and anti-depressants are used for chronic low back pain. If patients experience severe pain, then patients may be prescribed pain medications.
If the pain persists for 6 weeks, seeing a specialist for surgery may be an option that can be considered to remedy the pain. In some instances, the herniated disc may be putting pressure on the nerve, and surgery can correct this.
- Physical therapy
Proper exercises may help reduce the pain considerably. Doctors recommend the exercises depending on the cause of sciatica. It is best to do the exercises as per the guidance of the physical therapist or physiatrist.
- Complementary and alternative remedies
Some of the complementary and alternative remedies that may provide relief to some patients are acupuncture and biofeedback.
But, you should note that scientific studies do not back this type of treatment. Acupuncture treatment makes use of needles that will be inserted into the skin at acupuncture points.
The points are said to carry the energy of the body, and they are located along channels. The needles are known to correct the blockage or imbalance of the nerves that cause pain when they are placed at specific locations.
The primary goal of treatment for sciatica is to decrease pain intensity and increase mobility.
If sciatica goes untreated, it might lead to a chronic condition and further complications. The type of sciatica that will go without the need for surgery or any medical management is acute sciatica.
There are ways to help prevent sciatica like regular exercise to strengthen the back muscles and maintaining proper body posture at all times.