If you could visualize your nervous system, you would see an incredible branching structure that radiates from the spine and ultimately reaches all the parts of your body. Some of these nerves are long, including the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower spine down into the legs. Sciatica is the name for a painful condition in which the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or pinched due to spinal compression or, in some cases, herniated discs. Other causes for this common concern can include the development of bone spurs near the nerve and a very sedentary lifestyle.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a common condition experienced by millions of Americans per year. Characterized by pain, tingling, or numbness in the lower back, buttocks, and legs, the sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down both legs. Injury, compression, or entrapment of the lumbar nerves is among the most common causes of sciatica; the nerve can be compromised by herniated discs, degenerative joint disease, trauma, muscle spasms, degenerative disc disease, or tightness of the piriformis muscle.
The most typical sign of sciatica is lower back pain that often radiates down one side of the body into the leg through the buttock. In extreme cases, the pain may reach the knee or even the foot. Sciatica can create an array of other symptoms, including:
- Weakness and instability in the affected leg.
- Persistent pain when walking or standing for reasonable periods.
- Tingling sensations or protracted numbness, or both.
- Pain begins with physical activity and subsides quickly when resting.
You may notice that pain from sciatica worsens in cold weather. Muscles tightening up in chilly temperatures can cause the compression of your sciatic nerve to flare up, as air pressure changes that often accompany cold fronts. Dress warmly and consider using electric heating pads in the evening to keep your muscles loose.
Non-Invasive Treatment Choices
Persistent sciatica pain can be frustrating and restrictive, especially if you experience flare-ups when moving about and engaging in daily activities. However, mild sciatica often responds well to non-surgical treatments, many of which patients can navigate independently. Some of the most effective self-care measures for sciatica include:
- Avoiding problematic activities and resting more frequently during periods of irritation
- Using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain
- Engaging in some forms of exercise reduces sciatic nerve inflammation. Explore this option
with your doctor.
In some cases, doctors may prescribe patients pain-relieving injections or steroids to help control the pain. A change in activity will sometimes resolve the issue; other times, the pain can persist through these first levels of treatment.
Does Sciatica Ever Require Surgery?
Doctors manage severe cases of sciatica differently. Injections, such as nerve blockers or prescription muscle relaxants may help patients find relief. If pain continues or worsens beyond these treatments, however, your doctor may suggest surgery as an option for correcting the issue.
Doctors often suggest surgery when sciatica leads to muscle atrophy in chronic cases. In a surgical procedure to relieve sciatica concerns, your practitioner will seek to free the nerve from the adverse conditions causing it to radiate pain signals.
At Redefine Healthcare, we are fully equipped to assist patients in understanding and treating not only sciatica but many other acute and chronic pain conditions as well. Reach out now to schedule an appointment or to find helpful answers to your questions about this condition.