What is sciatica and what can you do about it?
Sciatica is an umbrella term that describes pain or difficulty that relates to the sciatic nerve. This pain or difficulty can be caused by the nerve becoming irritated, or by the sciatic nerve being compressed. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body, and runs from the back to the feet. The result of this positioning is that sciatica can be a very debilitating condition.
How do you know if you’re suffering from sciatica?
If your sciatic nerve has been irritated, or has become compressed, you may experience a range of symptoms. These vary in severity, and can include numbness in the affected area and pain that needs to be treated with medication. You may also experience an uncomfortable tingling feeling that starts in your lower back, and then moves to one of your legs and feet. Some sufferers of sciatica also experience problems with their calves, particularly in your ability to move your ankles and feet. This can affect your mobility, and in turn, your quality of life.
Sciatica doesn’t necessarily mean that you will experience agonizing pain, as the level of pain can range from relatively mild to more severe, depending on other factors such as your general health, your age and how long you have been suffering from the condition. Any pain that you do experience can be made worse by spending long periods of time sitting, or by coughing and sneezing.
What causes sciatica?
In many cases, sciatica is the result of a slipped disc. The vertebrae, which is the spine, is made up of discs which provide support. If one of these discs becomes damaged or compressed, it can be difficult to move and to cope with the resulting pain and discomfort. Aging can hasten the likelihood of the occurrence of a slipped disc. There are some other potential causes of sciatica, including spinal stenosis. This means that the passages within the spine that allow the movement of nerves become narrower, causing varying levels of difficulty. Spondylolisthesis can also cause sciatica. This is a condition in which one of the bones of your spine moves out of the correct position. An injury to the spine, or an infection, can also result in the patient developing sciatica. Rarely, sciatica is the result of a tumor within the spine. It’s also rare to develop it as a result of having cauda equina syndrome, an uncommon condition that occurs when the nerves in the spinal cord are badly damaged.
How can you treat sciatica?
In some cases, sciatica will resolve itself after approximately six weeks. Pain relieving drugs can help to alleviate your symptoms. If pain relief isn’t working, or if your pain and discomfort has lasted longer than you expected, a course of physical therapy or medical massage can be very helpful. It’s also possible to have laser treatments, which can also help you to recover. In the most exceptional cases, surgery will be necessary, though this is very rare. Seeking help will allow you to establish the best course of treatment for your condition and symptoms.