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Sciatica

Sciatica is the pain caused by the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and passes down each leg.

Sciatica 

Signs and Symptoms: 

Sciatica symptoms are the result of compression or pinching of the sciatic nerve Its compression would cause you to feel:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations in the buttocks and affected leg
  • Difficulty in standing
  • Inability to walk
  • Burning Sensation

Areas affected by these symptoms are:

  • Bottom
  • Back of your leg
  • Foot
  • Toes

 

Bilateral sciatica is rare. Therefore, symptoms of sciatica are mostly on one side of the body only. Symptoms associated with sciatica can worsen when you sneeze, move or cough. Moreover, the condition usually gets better in four to six weeks, though it can stay longer than that.

 

Causes of Sciatica:

  • Herniated Disc: This is the most common cause of sciatic pain. Discs are the cushion materials between the vertebrae. Pressure can cause the bulging of the outer wall of these vertebrae of the spine, leading to pressure on the sciatic nerve. This pressure on the sciatic nerve forms the basis of symptoms of sciatica.
  • Degenerative disc disease: The natural wear and tear of the disc can also put pressure on the sciatica nerve.
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Traumatic Injury to the spine
  • Cauda equina syndrome

 

 

Risk factors:

  • Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated discs and bone deformities, are the most common causes of sciatica.
  • Improper posture: If you have a slouched or slumped posture while sitting, or you lean forward at your desk, it increases the strain on your lower back.
  • Obesity: Obesity increases the stress on your spine. It can lead to spinal changes that will trigger sciatica.
  • Prolonged sitting: Individuals who sit for a prolonged time or have an inactive lifestyle are at more risk of developing sciatica than active people.
  • Nature of job: A job that makes you twist your back very often, carry heavy loads frequently or drive a vehicle for long periods might play a role in sciatica. More research is needed to prove this risk factor.

 

Complications of Sciatica:

Although most people recover from sciatica even without requiring treatment, sciatica can potentially cause permanent nerve damage. Following complications can arise:

 

  • Loss of sensations in the leg
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Weakness in the affected leg
  • Severe chronic pain
  • Foot drop

 

 

How to treat sciatica at home?

Sciatica usually resolves on its own in 4 to 6 weeks. However, there are certain things you can do to relieve the symptoms and speed up the recovery process.

 

  • Apply heat packs to the painful areas. You can buy these heat packs from any pharmacy.
  • Start gentle exercise to help you move.
  • Try to carry on routine activities as much as possible.
  • Consume over-the-counter pain medications such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
  • Place a small, firm cushion between your knees while sleeping on your side.
  • Avoid sitting or lying down for long periods. Even if moving hurts, it is still better than sitting or lying down for long periods of time.
  • Do not apply hot bottles to a numb leg. They may burn it and cause scalds.
  • Monitor the severity of your symptoms regularly.

 

Prevention

It is not always an easy task to prevent sciatica. However, adopting the following habits can play an important role in protecting your back:

 

  • Exercise regularly. It would help you in strengthening your back. Exercise would strengthen muscles in your abdomen and back. Stronger muscles will help you maintain proper posture and alignment. Consult your doctor to know which exercise would be best for you.

 

  • Maintain proper posture while sitting. Choose a seat having good lower back support, armrests and a base. The purpose is to maintain the normal curve of your back.

 

  • Apply good body mechanics while working. If you must stand for a prolonged time, consider resting one foot on a stool or small box frequently. When you lift something heavy, allow your lower extremities to do the work. Always move straight up and straight down. Avoid lifting and twisting at the same time. Do not hesitate to seek someone's help if the object is heavy or awkward.

 

 

When to see a doctor?

If your pain has not been relieved after trying home treatments for a couple of weeks; it is getting worse or you start developing any complication, it is time to visit your doctor.

 

 

 

References

 

 

Valat JP, Genevay S, Marty M, Rozenberg S, Koes B. Sciatica. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2010;24(2):241-252. doi:10.1016/j.berh.2009.11.005

 

Davis D, Maini K, Vasudevan A. Sciatica. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; February 26, 2021.

 

Cortet B, Bourgeois P. Causes et mécanismes des souffrances sciatiques [Causes and mechanisms of sciatic pains]. Rev Prat. 1992;42(5):539-543.

 

Schulz CA, Hondras MA, Evans RL, et al. Chiropractic and self-care for back-related leg pain: design of a randomized clinical trial. Chiropr Man Therap. 2011;19:8. Published 2011 Mar 22. doi:10.1186/2045-709X-19-8

 

 

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