What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a very painful condition that can last for several days. It occurs due to the irritation of the sciatic nerve, which can occur as a result of inflammation or injury. Sciatica is not a disease itself, but is a symptom of another health problem.
It usually causes a radiating pain that extends from the back to the leg, even reaching the feet. The muscles around the area tend to contract due to the pain, worsening the situation. Occasionally, one of the spinal discs can move backwards, putting an intense amount of pressure on the nerve.
What are the main symptoms of sciatica?
The symptoms that sciatica produces can hinder one's quality of life. Some of the most common indicators include of sciatica include the following:
- Pain: the degree of pain can vary from a mild pain that hardly causes discomfort to a dull or very intense pain that hinders the ability to move.
- Tingling: occuring in the legs, calves and feet.
- Numbness: areas where pain and tingling occur may be numb.
- Weakness: it is very common to feel weakness in some parts of the body.
What are the causes of sciatica?
Sciatica pain is caused by inflammation or injury of the sciatic nerve, and is also sometimes caused by compression in muscle contractures, a disc displacement in the spine, or a narrowing of the nerve channel.
The most common causes of sciatica are:
Can sciatica be prevented?
Sciatica cannot be prevented, simply due to the fact that, as mentioned above, it is not a disease, but a symptom. However, experts recommend regular exercise and practising good posture.
How is it treated?
Due to the fact that sciatica is a symptom of another condition, the underlying cause must be identified and treated.
In some cases, no treatment is necessary and the sciatica symptoms improve on their own. In other cases, medication, surgery, or physiotherapy may be indicated in order to alleviate the pain or to correct the problem.
How can I relieve sciatica symptoms at home?
To effectively relieve pain caused by sciatica, make sure you exercise regularly, and keep as mobile as possible. Also, holding heat packs to affected and painful areas can be a highly effective way of alleviating pain. Another effective home remedy is putting a small but firm cushion between the knees whilst sleeping on your side, and numerous firm pillows under the knees when sleeping or lying on your back.
When should I seek medical attention?
Patients are encouraged to seek medical advice and attention for their sciatica symptoms if they notice the following:
- that their symptoms are not improving even after home treatments and remedies
- their symptoms are worsening significantly
- their sciatica is preventing them from doing their normal daily activities
Which specialist treats sciatica?
A neurologist is your go-to medical professional when it comes to seeking treatment for sciatica.
What should I avoid doing if I have sciatica?
The main things that patients with sciatica should avoid doing include sitting or lying down for long periods of time, and using hot water bottles for pain relief, as the skin could be scalded if the skin is numb.
Is there a specific sleeping that is recommended for patients with sciatica?
It is strongly advised that patients who have experienced or who are experiencing sciatica symptoms do not sleep on their stomach, as this causes the spine to become twisted. Sleeping on your side is not harmful, but if patients do like to sleep on their sides, they should consider placing a pillow between their knees in order to prevent their back from twisting during the night. The ideal sleeping position is on the back with a pillow placed behind the knees.
What underlying conditions could be causing sciatica?
Sciatica usually occurs as a result of too much pressure being suffered by a certain section of one's lower spine. However, an inability to control bladder and bowel movements is a serious cause for concern, and sciatica symptoms can certainly lead to or include a rare condition known, in medical terms, as cauda equina syndrome, which simply refers to uncontrolled bladder and /or movements of the bowel. Sciatica may also indicate urinary incontinence in some patients.11-13-2012 10-25-2023