Sciatica is a pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve pathway the nerve branches from the lower back to the hips, buttocks, and then to each leg. Sometimes sciatica affects only one side of the body. The most commonly occurring condition for sciatica is that when a herniated disk or spine compresses a part of the nerve, it causes inflammation, pain or numbness in the affected leg.
The pain associated with this condition is usually severe and resolves on its own. However, severe sciatica will cause leg weakness or changes in the bladder and bowel movements. When the problem is not resolved with standard sciatica treatment, those patients will be advised to go for surgery.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sciatica?
The main symptom of sciatica is radiating pain. It starts from the lumbar region and extends till the buttocks, then to the leg through the backside. You will sense the discomfort all along the nerve pathway through the back of the thighs and calves. The intensity of pain can vary from mild to sharp or from burning to excruciating.
As per some patients, the symptoms of sciatica can be like an electric shock or jolt type of pain. It gets worse with sneezing and coughing or because of prolonged sitting in the same posture. These may worsen the situation and increase the pain. Few of the population have a numb feeling as the muscles weaken with pain in the affected leg. However, the pain and numbness do not happen on the same parts of the leg.
Mild sciatica usually goes away over time with self-care. But if the symptoms do not subside for more than a week or progress with time, get immediate medical help. You have to look out for the following signs, symptoms and understand that you need a doctor’s guidance.
- The pain leads to an injury to your lower body.
- You experience trouble with controlling both bladder and bowel.
- There is a sudden stabbing pain in the lower back or leg.
- If there is prolonged numbness making it difficult for you to walk.
What Are The Causes Of Sciatica?
There are many sciatica causes. They are:
- A slipped or herniated disk that puts pressure on the root of the nerves. This is one of the most common sciatica causes. Have you ever wondered what causes sciatic nerve pain? The disks act as a cushioning pad between the spine. The pressure will cause the central portion with gel to bulge. This happens when the outer wall is weak. Thus, when a herniated disk occurs, the pressure on the sciatic nerve leads to the condition.
- Degenerative disk disease is the next major cause of sciatica and that’s what causes sciatic nerve pain. A natural wearing of the disks happens as we age. This shortens the height of the disks, thereby narrowing the passageways through which the sciatic nerves run. This narrowing is referred to as spinal stenosis. It can cause a pinch on the sciatic nerve roots, thereby causing pain.
- Spondylolisthesis is when one of the vertebrae slips out of line and could be a sciatic pain reason. Again, this causes a narrowing of the opening where the nerve exits. In addition, the extended spinal bone pinches the sciatic nerve to cause pain.
- Osteoarthritis is a bone spur that is formed due to aging and is also a sciatica pain reason. It compresses the lower back nerves causing sciatica pain.
- Any injury on the spinal cord or the lumbar region will trigger sciatic nerve pain as it will somehow be linked with the sciatic nerve.
- Certain tumors in the lumbar spinal canal can compress the sciatic nerve and trigger sciatic nerve pain.
- Piriformis syndrome is another condition that is an uncommon neuromuscular disorder and a sciatic pain reason. It affects the small muscles in the butt to become tight due to spasms. In addition, it can pressurize and irritate the sciatic nerve causing pain.
- Cauda equina syndrome is yet another rare condition that affects the nerve bundles at the end of the spinal cord and is a sciatica pain reason. It causes pain in the leg along with numbness around the anus. Loss of bladder and bowel control is another common symptom here.
Risk Factors Of Sciatica
The widespread risks associated with sciatica are:
- Age-related changes in the spine
- Herniated disks or bone spurs
- Obesity as there is stress on the spine. This leads to an increase in body weight and that in turn triggers sciatica. So, weight and medical condition become dependent on each other.
- You won’t be able to perform all activities. For example, jobs that require twisting your back, carrying heavy things or even driving for long durations will trigger sciatica pain.
- People who sit for long periods or enjoy a sedentary lifestyle are also at a high risk of developing the condition very quickly.
- Diabetes is a common risk factor. It affects the usage of blood sugars and increases nerve damage.
How To Prevent And Treat Sciatica?
It is not possible to stop the development of sciatica and pain. It can recur, but there are specific ways to prevent and treat it.
- The best sciatica pain treatment at home can be sciatica exercises that can be done daily. It keeps the back and core muscles strong. It is an exclusive activity to workout at home.
- Maintaining a proper posture to sit with support for the lower back is yet another effective sciatica pain treatment.
- Use simple techniques like resting one foot on a stool or any support when standing for long periods.
- While lifting heavy objects, take care to let only your lower extremities do the job.
Most people recover from the condition often without sciatica treatment. But there is a possibility to damage the nerves permanently. So don’t be lethargic and seek medical help if you are having any loss of feeling in the affected side of the body and changes in the bladder and bowel functionality.
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