What is sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is located near the base of the spine. When the nerve is pinched or irritated, it can result in different symptoms from mild to severe, such as mild aches to sharp, burning or excruciating pain. Everyone’s experience with sciatica pain is different but that experience severe pain can have disruptions to their daily functions and life.
What causes it?
Sciatica most commonly is a result of the sciatic nerve being compressed. This can be caused by a herniated disk, bone spur, spinal stenosis or in more rare causes, a tumor or blood clot. Sciatica on its own is not a medical diagnosis, rather a symptom of a larger issue at hand.
There are many risk factors that make someone more likely to experience sciatica. These include:
- Age. As your body matures, normal changes in the spine can trigger sciatica.
- Obesity. Excess body weight puts more stress on your spine, which can result in damage to the sciatic nerve.
- Prolonged sitting. Those with a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than those who are active.
- Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of nerve damage, the sciatic nerve included.
What are the symptoms?
Sciatica causes a burning pain that usually originates in the lower back, radiates deep into the buttocks, and shoots down one side of the body (It’s rare to experience sciatica in both legs simultaneously, but is possible). In some cases, it can radiate down to the feet.
In addition to this radiating pain, those with sciatica may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg. Pain could also be felt in one area of the leg and numbness in another. This pain and numbness can change depending on the standing or sitting position.
How can I relieve symptoms?
First and foremost, it’s important to diagnose the cause of the sciatica. Knowing the cause of the pain allows you and your doctor to develop the most effective treatment plan possible.
Symptoms may be relieved by applying a heating pad over the lower back, as this is where the sciatic nerve is located and where the pain usually originates.
There are also many stretches, exercises, and yoga poses that can relieve sciatica. Adding these to your daily routine can have huge benefits in terms of daily pain management.
If your pain is severe and your movement is very limited, consult with a medical doctor or physical therapist.
How is sciatica treated?
Sciatica should be treated as soon as symptoms arise. There are multiple options, including surgical and nonsurgical methods.
The most common treatments can include any combination of the following:
- Physical therapy
- Therapeutic injections
If you try these treatments but the sciatica pain has not subsided, it might be time to consider surgery.
Surgical options can be considered when the pain progressively worsens, there is significant weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control and other therapies have not improved the condition. Bone spurs or portions of the herniated disk could be removed.