There seems to much confusion and misinformation surrounding what sciatica really is, how to treat it, and even what causes it. And when it comes to your health, misinformation can mean the difference between wellness and illness.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a neurological condition and collection of symptoms usually resulting from an underlying problem with the lower spine. Though not always. It’s equally important to understand what sciatica isn’t: a disease.
Your nervous system is how your brain communicates with the rest of your body, and it does this through your nerves. This communication is responsible for every process and function in your body, from automatic processes like blood pressure control, to all your voluntary movement.
Your sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in your body. It runs from your lower spine, down each leg, and into each foot. Sciatica usually effects just one side of the body, and this can result in tingling, weakness, numbness, and varying degrees of pain from your buttocks and hips all the way down to your feet.
As with any symptom, it’s important to find the root cause. Only then can you fix what’s really ailing you.
Causes of Sciatica
There are a number of conditions and circumstances that may result in sciatica pain, which is one reason diagnosing it can be problematic. Let’s look at some of the more common causes.
•Lumbar herniated disc – if your spinal disc is leaking fluid, certain proteins can inflame and irritate the sciatic nerve.
•Degenerative disc disease – the weakening of the spinal discs can occur with age, leading to a reduction in its ability to absorb shocks, which can cause pressure on the nerve.
•Isthmic Spondylolisthesis – this occurs when one spinal disc slips over another and pinches the sciatic nerve.
•Piriformis Syndrome – your piriformis muscle in your buttocks sits on top of your sciatic nerve and certain movements can irritate it.
•Lumbar spinal stenosis – arthritis can cause your spinal canal to narrow, putting undue pressure on the nerve.
Other possible causes of your sciatica pain could be due to pregnancy, injury to a muscle, scar tissue, and in rare cases a tumor.
We already know that underlying problems are responsible for your sciatica discomfort, which is why your symptoms are likely to come and go, get worse, get better, and change considerably over time.
It may begin as numbness in your thigh. It could result in pain and loss of movement in your foot. Certain movements could result in a shooting pain anywhere in your leg, hips, or buttocks. Or you could feel like part of your leg is burning, or you may experience a tingling sensation.
When it comes sciatica symptoms, the range and varying degrees of discomfort are pretty astounding.
Treatment for your sciatica pain will always depend on the circumstances contributing to it. However, the first approach should be of the non-invasive variety. And only then, should those options fail, should surgery be considered.
•Prescription medication, including muscle relaxants, narcotics, and/or anti-seizure medication;
•Cold and hot packs – helpful in treating the onset of pain. Alternate between the two to find which works better for you.
•Aromatherapy – if inflammation is responsible for your sciatica pain, try lowering it with essential oils that have anti-inflammatory effects like St. John’s wort. You’ll need a diffuser to take advantage of this method.
•Massage therapy – if the cause of your sciatica is muscular, massage therapy can help loosen the muscles affected, restore mobility, and decrease your pain.
•Acupuncture – this ancient Chinese practice helps stimulate your body’s energy pathways using very thin needles that are inserted around the area of concern.
•Chiropractic adjustment – if a spinal subluxation (misalignment) is putting pressure on your sciatic nerve, a spinal adjustment may resolve the issue.
•Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection – if lumbar radiculopathy is causing your pain, this treatment, that involves placing a tiny needle in the epidural space and injecting a small amount of pain medication, may provide relief.
•Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection – this treatment is similar to the one above, but the medication is directed onto the sciatic nerve fibers, resulting in a more direct medication delivery.
•Physical therapy– to correct posture, strengthen muscles, and improve flexibility.
Lifestyle plays a big role in our health. If you’re sitting down for much of the day, and especially if your posture is poor while sitting, this can contribute to sciatica. Explore ways to get more movement into your day. Incorporate a routine that gets you up and away from your desk.
How about a standing desk? Or stretching breaks. (Yoga, in particular, is great for lengthening the spine and keeping it healthy.) Take a short walk. And try alternating between sitting and lying down when you do experience pain. Find a position that works best for you. And the effect posture has on your health cannot be discounted. Keep your spine straight regardless of your position.
Also, don’t overlook the effect proper rest can have on your sciatica pain. And if these non-invasive strategies don’t help, it may be time to consider more modern treatment options.
Sciatica can be a real pain in the foot, leg, hips, and buttocks. Unfortunately, this pain isn’t your biggest problem. That distinction belongs to whatever is causing your discomfort.
If you think you’re suffering from sciatica symptoms, it’s important to see a physician immediately. Many conditions are reversible. However, nerve damage isn’t. So, don’t let it get to that point.
360 Pain Treatment can properly diagnosis your sciatica, as well as find the root cause of your pain. And we have a number of treatment options, one of which is sure to help.
Don’t let your sciatica pain slow you down.
Know more about Dr. Raju Mantena