Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Risks And More
Pain is regarded as one of those feelings that can bother a person. It can range from mild to severe and takes place in different parts of the body. Here, we are going to tell you about sciatica that is a common type of pain affecting the sciatic nerve.
What Is Sciatica?
The term ‘sciatica’ is used to express nerve pain in the leg. This kind of pain is caused by irritation, pinching, or compression of the sciatic nerve. A lot of people experience this kind of pain during their lives. While sciatica is often linked with lower back pain, it can occur without its presence. Our sciatic nerve is the longest, thickest, and one of the most important nerves in the body. This dominant nerve travels from the lower spine through pelvis, and down each leg.
The intensity of pain can vary from mild pain to a sharp and burning sensation. In some cases, a person senses the pain like an electric shock or a jerk. In general cases, sciatic pain affects only a single leg at a time. But, it is possible that it takes place on both legs. The thing is about where the nerve has been pinched along the spinal column.
More About Sciatic Nerve
There are a total of five sets of paired nerve roots present in the lumbar spine. All of them unite to create a left and right sciatic nerve. On each side of the body, a sciatic nerve moves through the hips, buttocks, and down the leg, and ends below the knee. This nerve then branches into other nerves, that keep on down the leg and into the toes and feet. This nerve has a direct effect on a person’s ability to control and feel the legs. When any of these nerve roots are compressed, sciatica occurs. A person can experience pain almost anywhere along the nerve pathway. But the pain can be felt most commonly in the way of the lower back to the buttock and the back of the calf and thigh.
Feeling of Sciatica Pain
Sometimes a sciatic nerve pain can be unbearable and a person doesn’t even like to get off the couch. The sciatic pain may be in different forms. Like, it can continue to disturb with a constant approach. Or may come and go within a particular interval. Additionally, a person may suffer from serious pain in the legs as compared to the lower back. This kind of pain may be debilitating if a person stands or sits for a longer time. Or even when he twists his upper body. A person may also experience severe pain during sciatica during a cough or sneeze.
Risk Factors For Sciatica
A lot of factors and behaviors can uplift the likelihood of sciatica. Let’s have a look at some of those.
- Diabetes- A person who suffers from this condition may have an increased risk of nerve damage.
- Smoking- This habit can lead to a breakdown of the outer layer of spinal discs.
- Age- When a person moves to an advanced age, there are greater possibilities for parts to break down or wear out.
- Obesity- Being obese or overweight can force our back muscles to work more. In such cases, there can be an occurrence of some issues like pain, back strains, or other back problems.
- Others- Those who lift heavy objects, sit for a longer period, and deal with twisting movements may also appreciate the occurrence of sciatica.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Regarding the symptoms of sciatica, they are usually experienced along the path of the sciatic nerve. This means if someone is experiencing pain that runs from the lower back through the buttock region and into the lower limbs, it’s usually sciatica. Some of the common sciatica symptoms include:
* Lower back pain
* Hip pain
* A pain that interferes to stand up
* Failure of controlling bladder or bowels.
* Lack of sensation or weakness in the feet or legs
* Loss of feeling or movement in severe cases
Sometimes, a person may experience the sensation of pins and needles that involves a painful tingling in the feet or toes.
Causes of Sciatica
A lot of causes are there to explore in the case of sciatica. Let’s know about some of them.
1. Herniated Lumbar Disc
This condition is said when a disc moves out from its place or bulges and creates pressure on the nearby nerve or nerve roots. A herniated disc can be due to being overweight, repetitive movements, improper lifting, or the aging process. Herniated discs have the capability to irritate the sciatic nerve roots. That’s why it is counted as one of the major causes of sciatica.
2. Spinal Stenosis
You can identify spinal stenosis as a narrowing of the spinal column. When the spinal column starts to become narrow, the vertebrae compress the spinal nerve. Both sciatica and spinal stenosis involve vertebrae, nerves, and spinal column. When there is a narrowing of the space in the spinal canal it can create pressure on the spinal cord. Consequently, there will be a feeling of pain and numbness down one leg (sciatica).
This condition occurs when a tiny stress fracture causes one vertebral body to slip forward on another. There can be an emergence of sciatica due to nerve compression following the disc space collapse, forward slipping of the vertebral body, or fracture. This condition is one of the causes of promoting bilateral sciatica.
4. Muscle Spasm
A muscle spasm refers to a rapid and spontaneous movement in one or multiple muscles. Such movements can take place in any muscle and prove to be a common appearance. This condition often takes place due to exercise, dehydration, or stress. Muscle spasms can also give rise to sciatica by compressing the sciatic nerve. This is because the sciatic nerve goes through the muscles.
5. Degenerative Disc Disease
You can identify it as a natural occurrence that comes with aging. In this condition, one or more discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column break down or worsen. This activity leads to a painful condition. It is regarded as one of the most common causes of low back pain as well. When there is an irritation of the nerves in the lower back due to degenerative disc disease, it often causes sciatica pain.
6. Spinal Tumors
A spinal tumor is referred to as an abnormal mass of tissue within or surrounding the spinal column or the spinal cord. There can be a presence of spinal tumors either in cancerous or non-cancerous forms. Both these forms can cause sciatica-like symptoms if they take place in the lower spine or on the sciatic nerve. A spinal tumor, when developed in the lumbar area may uplift the possibilities of sciatica due to nerve compression.
Conditions like motor vehicle accidents, falls, and contact sports like football can directly cause sciatica. Due to the impact of such events, the nerves may get injured or the broken bone may compress the nerves.
Some other less common causes of sciatica include endometriosis, nerve damage from diabetes, or side effects from medications.
Pregnancy And Sciatica
During pregnancy, sciatica proves to be a common appearance. It can be due to loosened ligaments by which the spine becomes unstable and ultimately the nerves get pinched. The weight of the baby and its position may also put some pressure on the nerves. Though some measures are available to get rid of sciatic pain in pregnancy and the pain goes away after the delivery of a child.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
The healthcare professionals execute the diagnosis of sciatica through a physical exam and medical history. Some tests used to identify the exact cause of sciatica include:
- X-rays- delivers the image of the inside of the body, considered as a good option for checking bone spurs
- CT Scan- combines a series of X-rays that delivers a better observation of spinal nerves and spinal cord
- MRI- uses radio waves and magnets for creating pictures of the inside. This helps to obtain a detailed look at the back and spine.
- Electromyography (EMG)- used to determine the rate of nerve signals traveling through the body, to inspect for conditions like a herniated disc.
For the diagnosis of sciatica, you can prefer Mewar Hospitals. Our neurosurgeon will be there to assist you in such conditions and will recommend further treatment options if sciatica is diagnosed.
Treatment of Sciatica
In many cases of sciatica, a person doesn’t need medical treatment and feels better with self-care measures. Still, if the pain isn’t resolved, you can take help from a doctor. In such cases, he may recommend some medications like anti-inflammatories, anti-seizures, narcotics, muscle relaxants, or tricyclic antidepressants.
In cases of physical therapy, there can be a recommendation to perform some exercises. Especially those which are helpful to improve posture and enhance flexibility. In the advanced stage of sciatica, the treatment of sciatica changes, and the doctor may counsel steroid injections. Such a kind of medication is given to help with inflammation around the nerve to decrease pain. But its effects normally remain for some months and wear off over time.
Surgery For Sciatica
When there is a presence of chronic sciatica, especially when there’s no relief in pain. And a person endures weakness, a loss of bladder or bowel control, there can be a need to perform surgery. During a surgical procedure, the surgeon will eliminate the bone spur or herniated disc which is pressing on the nerve and promoting pain. For more details about the surgery, you can ask our surgeon.
Self-Care Measures For Sciatica
If there is an occurrence of acute sciatica, you can apply heat and cold packs. Taking help from ice packs will be cooperative to lessen down swelling and pain. Try to apply ice packs on the affected part for around 20 minutes and continue doing multiple times a day. Then change to a hot pack or take help from a heating pad after the first several days. Use it for the same duration at a time. Even if there’s a feeling of pain, change between both the packs and use the one which eases discomfort. Apart from hot and cold packs, you can consider stretching techniques. But it would be better if you perform it under the guidance of a physical therapist. For that, you can take help from Mewar Hospitals.
The time period of sciatica mainly depends on its cause. When a person suffers from a back sprain, herniated disc, or lumbar degenerative disease, sciatica can be temporary. Still, it’s difficult to tell how many days or weeks will it last. But, according to some professionals, acute sciatic pain usually improves within around four to six weeks. Regarding numbness and weakness, they will take a longer time to resolve.
Sometimes, these conditions may also give rise to chronic sciatica. In cases of degeneration of the lumbar spine and discs, a person won’t get relief from the pain of sciatica until surgery is performed. Make sure to seek immediate medical help if the pain emerges after an accident or injury. Even if you have sudden or severe pain in the lower back or leg together with numbness or muscle weakness in the same leg, be attentive and consult a doctor.
Visit Mewar Hospitals For Better Assistance
Our team is here to assist you in the treatment of sciatica. But you can also make some attempts to prevent its risks. However, it isn’t possible to prevent all its cases, but you can remember some things in mind. Firstly try to follow a good posture technique that will help to ease pressure on the lower back. Next, maintain a healthy weight and go for a healthy diet. A balanced body weight helps to put less strain on the spine. Also, make sure to avoid smoking and make a habit to exercise regularly.
Even if something feels wrong and the pain disturbs to a severe extent, please visit our hospital. Our doctors will then guide you for further steps.
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