Have you ever felt a sharp and burning pain that radiates through the buttocks and into your lower leg? This pain is known as Sciatic nerve pain. But what is the sciatic nerve?
The Sciatic nerve is a major nerve that extends from the lower end of the spinal cord to the back of the thigh and as far down as the foot and toes. The diameter of the sciatic nerve is the largest of all the nerves in the human body. The sciatic nerve serves a vital role in connecting the spinal cord with the skin and muscles of the thigh, leg, and foot. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482431/). The Sciatic nerve is formed by the union of 5 nerve roots.
When the sciatic nerve is irritated, inflamed, or compressed it causes pain that originates in the lower back and is felt along the path of the nerve, the buttocks, hip, and lower leg. This pain is known as Sciatica and is a type of lumbar radiculopathy. Sciatica is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50, for pregnant women the pressure on the sciatic nerve from a growing uterus makes them more prone to develop this pain.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Pain is the main symptom of a sciatic nerve affected, this pain can appear suddenly and last a few days or even weeks. Pain caused by the sciatic nerve is described as a burning sensation or a shooting pain. Being lumbar radiculopathy, the pain will originate from the roots of the lumbar or sacral nerves (L4 to S3). Sciatica commonly affects only one leg, depending on the location of the nerve compression. Besides pain, other symptoms such as numbness, burning, weakness, and tingling can also be felt in the affected leg and pain can worsen when sitting, sneezing, or coughing.
The term Sciatica describes a set of symptoms. However, sciatica is not a medical condition on its own. The underlying condition causing the nerve compression is a real medical condition and treating it correctly will relieve the compression of the nerve and improve the symptoms of sciatica.
Medical Conditions that can cause Sciatica
There are several factors that can affect the sciatic nerve:
The main reason causing sciatica is mechanical compression of the sciatic nerve due to herniated discs when the soft inner material of the disc leaks and compresses the nerve, this condition can also cause irritation and inflammation to the nerve due to the leak of hyaluronan, an acidic chemical from the disc material.
Spinal Stenosis is the constriction of the space for nerves in the spine (spinal canal), this may compress or irritate the sciatic nerve.
When a vertebral segment slips over the one below it, or in some cases the complete dislocation of vertebrae can cause the compression of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve.
Some physical characteristics can also make a person more prone to suffer from sciatica. As mentioned before, pregnant women are susceptible to sciatica due to the pressure over the sciatic nerve caused by the increased size of the uterus. Obese or overweight individuals and elderly tall individuals (over 6 ft for men – 5.5 ft for women). Certain occupations can increase the risk of suffering from sciatica pain, some examples are carpenters, truck drivers, and machine workers.
Treatment of Sciatica
In order to treat sciatica pain, it is essential to diagnose the underlying cause. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis will determine the best course of treatment. Commonly in sciatica treatment both nonsurgical and surgical methods are included. Nonsurgical methods are tried first and in a large number of cases are shown to be effective to eliminate the pain.
Physical therapy is an effective treatment that uses exercise to relieve sciatica pain. The treatment will be formulated by physiatrists, physical therapists, or chiropractors. The goal is to strengthen the spine and lower back, buttocks, and hip muscles
Prescription and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen, oral steroids, and opioid analgesics are typically used as treatments in order to reduce pain and facilitate physical therapy. Treatments with analgesics are usually prescribed for a short period of time to avoid addiction.
Chiropractic Therapy is the manual or mechanical (Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression) manipulation in order to improve the alignment of the spine, address the cause of sciatica pain and create better healing conditions.
Massage therapy includes deep tissue massage will help reduce sciatic nerve pain, improve circulation which increases healing response, and relax tight muscles
Surgery is considered an option when sciatica is caused by a herniated disc and pain is not relieved after 4 to 6 weeks. In this case, part of the disc is removed in order to relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve. However, up to 90% of patients will recover from sciatica without going into surgery.
The best course of action is to prevent sciatica by exercising regularly, consuming vitamin B12, having good posture when sitting or standing, and having a good technique when lifting heavy objects by bending the knees. Contact Dr. Flora Hyacinth Today