- What is Sciatica?
- Symptoms of Sciatica
- Causes of Sciatica
- Risk factors for Sciatica
- Diagnosis of Sciatica
- Treatment of Sciatica
- Prevention of Sciatica
Sciatica is the pain and discomfort affecting the sciatic nerve. Sciatic nerve is a large nerve extending from the lower back, down the back of each leg.
Sciatica develops over time. Generally a particular event or injury does not cause sciatica. The incidence of sciatica increases in middle age. Sciatica occurs rarely before age 20. The possibility of experiencing sciatic pain peaks in the 50s and then declines. Sometimes sciatica pain from a pinched nerve can be severe and debilitating.
Common symptoms of sciatica includes Pain, numbness, tingling, weakness originating from the lower back and travelling through buttocks down the back of the leg into the calf and feet. The pain typically travels along the course of sciatic nerve.
Sciatica is often characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Burning or tingling down the leg
- Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
Symptoms differ from patient to patient depending on where the nerve is pinched.
Sciatica is caused by a problem in the lower back. Disc problems such as herniated discs and degenerative disc disease can compress or irritate nerve roots in the lower back and are common causes of sciatica. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, Spondylolisthesis can also be a cause for Sciatica.
Lumbar herniated disc: A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner core of the disc leaks out or herniates and irritates the nerve root. A herniated disc is sometimes referred to as a slipped disc, ruptured disc, bulging disc, protruding disc or a pinched nerve. Sciatica is the most common symptom of a lumbar herniated disc.
Degenerative disc disease: breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae. While disc degeneration is a natural process that occurs with aging, for some people one or more degenerated discs in the lower back can also irritate a nerve root and cause sciatica.
Lumbar spinal stenosis: narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back
Spondylolisthesis: a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one
Other things that may make your back pain worse include being overweight, not exercising regularly, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft.
Sciatica also occurs when there is an overgrowth of bone (bone spur) on your vertebrae. More rarely, the nerve can be compressed by a tumor or damaged by a disease such as diabetes.
Risk factors for sciatica include:
- Age. Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs, are the most common causes of sciatica.
- Obesity. By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight may contribute to the spinal changes that trigger sciatica.
- Occupation. A job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods may play a role in sciatica, but there's no conclusive evidence of this link.
- Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than active people are.
- Diabetes. This condition, which affects the way your body uses blood sugar, increases your risk of nerve damage.
Diagnosis of Sciatica is done by clinical examination like Straight Leg Raise (SLR) test, imaging tests like X-ray, MRI scan or CT Scan.
Straight Leg Raise (SLR) Test:
The straight leg raise test (also called Lasègue's sign, Lasègue test or Lazarević's sign) is a test done during the physical examination to determine whether a patient with low back pain has an underlying herniated disk, often located at L5 (fifth lumbarspinal nerve). The test is done with the patient lying down on his or her back on an examination table, the examiner lifts the patient's leg while the knee is straight. If the patient experiences sciatic pain when the straight leg is at an angle of between 30 and 70 degrees, then the test is positive and a herniated disc is likely to be the cause of the pain.
Heat is applied for approximately 20 minutes. Use hot packs, a heat lamp or a heating pad.
Certain exercises are advisable for Sciatica Pain Relief. Stretching exercises for your low back can help you feel better and may help relieve nerve root compression. Avoid jerking, bouncing or twisting during the stretch.
Exercise is usually better for relieving sciatic pain than bed rest. Patients may rest for a day or two after their sciatic pain flares up, but after that time period, inactivity will usually make the pain worse. Without exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures become deconditioned and less able to support the back. The deconditioning and weakening can lead to back injury and strain, which causes additional pain. In addition, active exercise is also important for the health of the spinal discs. Movement helps exchange nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy and prevent pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Pain medications may also be helpful in relieving Sciatica but they should not be given for long. In conventional medicine, Anti-inflammatories, Muscle relaxants, Tricyclic antidepressants are used for the treatment. Pain killers may help in acute pain for short term relief, however are not of any use for long term relief.
In some cases, injection of a corticosteroid medication into the area around the involved nerve root is advised in conventional treatments. Corticosteroids help reduce pain by suppressing inflammation around the irritated nerve but the effects usually wear off in a few months. The number of steroid injections you can receive is limited because the risk of serious side effects increases when the injections occur too frequently.
Surgery is usually reserved for times when the compressed nerve causes significant weakness, bowel or bladder incontinence or when you have pain that progressively worsens or doesn't improve with other therapies. Surgeons can remove the bone spur or the portion of the herniated disk that's pressing on the pinched nerve.
Homeopathy treatment is highly recommended for those who have already tried exercises, pain medications, corticosteroid injections without relief or don't want to try these methods or are not fit/willing for the surgery. Homeopathy treatment is much different than conventional treatment. It does not only relieves pain but attempts to cure the basic cause of Sciatica. Surgery can be avoided in many cases with homeopathy treatment of 6 to 12 months. Homeopathy medicines don't have side effects of any kind when taken over a long period. Order your personalised Homeopathic Sciatica Treatment.
It's not always possible to prevent sciatica and the condition may recur. The following suggestions can play a key role in preventing Sciatica:
- Exercise regularly. This is the most important thing you can do for your overall health as well as for your back. Pay special attention to your core muscles — the muscles in your abdomen and lower back that are essential for proper posture and alignment. Ask your doctor to recommend specific activities.
- Maintain proper posture when you sit. Choose a seat with good lower back support, arm rests and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level.
- Use good body mechanics. If you stand for long periods, rest one foot on a stool or small box from time to time. When you lift something heavy, let your lower extremities do the work. Move straight up and down. Keep your back straight and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Avoid lifting and twisting simultaneously. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward.