Sciatica is a medical condition that affects a lot of people all over the world.
Sciatica is a very painful and debilitating condition that is extremely common.
An estimated 40% of all people will get sciatica at some point of time in their life.
Sciatica affects anywhere between 15-45% of Americans.
So, what is sciatica exactly and what is sciatica caused by?
It is the medical term that is used to describe nerve pain in the legs, feet and buttocks.
Sciatica is caused when the longest nerve in our body, the sciatic nerve :
- gets compressed
- or by the irritation of the sciatic nerve
- or damage to the sciatic nerve
If you’re experiencing pain that starts radiating down the back of your leg and into your feet, it could be due to sciatica.
The sciatica pain starts at the lower back and can extend to the leg and foot depending upon the affected sciatic nerve root.
Sciatica is not a disorder on its own but a symptom of other medical conditions.
What Is Sciatic Nerve?
The sciatic nerve begins at the lower spine before it runs through the buttock, along the back of the thigh and ends at the foot.
It’s a very crucial nerve in our body that sends out signals from the spinal cord onto the entire lower part of our body.
The sciatic nerve sends out signals from these parts to the brain and receives the signals back from the brain.
When the sciatic nerve is compressed, irritated or damaged :
It starts producing pain that is exactly similar to having a leg cramp.
The sciatic nerve has a variety of functions due to its length and location.
That is why sciatica pain can occur throughout the entire lower part of the human body, and which can even lead to coughing, sneezing and muscle contractions.
Due to the acute pain, it makes both sitting and standing difficult .
The sciatica pain normally aggravates when sitting, coughing, or sneezing.
If you are experiencing sciatica pain for the very first time, it is a pain that you will definitely wish you never had.
It is a sharp pain that radiates through your buttocks and sometimes it can make your knees and groin ache.
A lot of sciatica patients have trouble standing, sitting, and sometimes even walking.
Sciatica can be very painful depending on whether the sciatic nerve is damaged or irritated.
The pain can occur in the form of :
- a stabbing pain, prickling, burning sensation, feeling numbness
- sometimes even like an electrical shock that shoots through your buttocks and leg
- you may also experience weakness or numbness in your lower back and also legs.
What Causes Sciatica?
There are quite a few potential causes for a compressed or irritated sciatic nerve.
Some of the most common ones are :
- Slipped disc. Slipped discs occur in the lower spine. As the outer casing of the disc in your spine becomes herniated, it causes the interior of the disc to bulge more than it should. This causes compression of the sciatic nerve, which results in pain and uneasiness.
- Injury to spine. If an injury occurs on the spine, or the muscles supporting the spine, then inflammation can press on the sciatic nerve.
- Spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that may occur in any of the regions of the spine. As the passage holding the spinal cord gets narrowed – often because of large ligaments, this causes compression on the sciatic nerve. This can often lead to lower back pain.
- Spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis is the forward displacement of a vertebra,( most commonly occurring after a break or fracture) where the vertebra has moved more than it should have. It can also be caused by continuously bending the spine in an unnatural way or can be due to the aging factor.
- Spinal infection. This is not that common, however it can also be a potential cause of sciatica pain.
The amount of pain, numbness or a tingling sensation varies depending on how much the nerve has been compressed or irritated.
The location of the nerve compression can also affect where the pain radiates.
How To Deal With Sciatic Pain?
Everybody have their own techniques and methods while handling sciatic pain.
A good starting point would be some simple exercise to strengthen the spine.
Learning Yoga or joining a fitness class that is dedicated to teaching you how to do proper exercises and other forms of workout specially designed for the back can also be of great help.
How To Treat Sciatica?
More specifically :
Every cause of sciatica needs a specific treatment plan to effectively reduce compression on the sciatic nerve and eliminate pain.
Treatment for sciatica usually involves a combination of pain killer medications plus rest.
This traditional treatment for sciatica can sometimes be effective at reducing pain only in the short term.
The drawback is that it only treats the symptoms of sciatica, meaning that the pain often recurs at a later date.
Another common treatment is physiotherapy exercises.
Unlike pain killer medications, physiotherapy exercises treat the underlying problem.
But it’s important that the right exercises are performed for specific causes of sciatica. Performing wrong exercises can worsen the pain and increases the time taken for overall recovery.
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