The Sciatica nerve is the longest nerve in your body and this is the thickest and longest nerve in the body. Sciatica is usually caused when the herniated disk in your lumber (lower spine) or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve and the pain travels along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve travels from the lower back through the buttocks and hips and down each leg. It typically affects only one side of the body and it refers to pain, numbness, weakness or tingling in the leg.
It is hard to identify the source of back pain, but sometimes you can pinpoint it easily. Sciatica pain is pretty simple to identify.
Types of Sciatica:
Depending on the duration of symptoms, Sciatica can be different types:
- Acute Sciatica: When the Sciatica pain symptoms are between 4 to 8 weeks in duration. It typically does not require medical treatment and home remedies are enough to treat the pain.
- Chronic Sciatica: If the Sciatica pain is more than 8 weeks and self-management does not respond well and nor does it pass on its own. Chronic Sciatica may need surgical or non-surgical treatment.
- Alternating Sciatica: Alternating Sciatica occurs in both legs alternately. Alternating Sciatica is rare and may result from degenerative problems in the sacroiliac joint.
- Bilateral Sciatica: Bilateral sciatica is sciatica that affects both legs together. This type of Sciatica is rare and may happen due to degenerative changes.
Symptoms of Sciatica
The most common sign of sciatica is severe pain in your lower back into the back or side of your legs.
A few common symptoms of Sciatica are:
- Pain: Pain is the most common symptom of Sciatica; it may be constant or intermediate and the pain can vary sharp, burning sensation or shooting pain and it can also feel like an electric shock. Sciatica pain can be worse when sitting for a long time or sneezing or coughing or standing for a long time and it commonly affects only one side of the body.
- Weakness: Weakness can be felt in the foot and leg. It may make it difficult to lift the foot.
- Certain posture: Sciatica pain feels worse if you are sitting or standing in a certain posture for a long time or twisting or bending the spine.
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
Causes of Sciatica pain
Sciatica pain is a very common complaint, it most commonly occurs when a bone spur on the spine or narrowing on the spine (spinal stenosis), or herniated disk compresses part of the nerve.
The risk factor of sciatica is:
- Age (most people who occur sciatica are between 30 and 50 years old)
- Obesity (people who are overweight and pregnant women have a greater chance to get a herniated disk)
- Prolonged sitting
- Poor back posture
- Injury (if you have an injury or past injury, it can be the reason for sciatica)
- Occupation (physical labour, warehouse employees, weight or heavy lifting, construction worker)
- Diabetes (can cause nerve damage)
- Have osteoarthritis
- Inactive lifestyle
- Vitamin B 12 deficiency
- Any nerve disorder
- High heels
Without treatment, most people recover from Sciatica. But, Sciatica can damage the nerves that are why to seek immediate medical attention for:
- Permanent nerve damage
- A slipped or herniated disk
- Drop foot
- Loss of feeling in the affected leg
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
How to diagnose Sciatica?
According to medical history and physical exam, tests of Sciatica include:
- EMG and NCS (Electromyography and nerve conduction study)
Treatment of Sciatica
- Applying ice packs (apply 20 min, several times a day for reducing pain and swelling)
- Do gentle stretches or physical activities
- Applying hot packs or heating pad (apply 20 min at a time, first several days)
- Taking over-the-counter medicine (NSAIDs, including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen)
- Prescription medications
- Spinal injections
- Physical therapy
- Alternative therapies
- Don’t Smoke
- Maintain good posture
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Keep yourself safe from falls
Choose physical activities (which is less likely to hurt your back)