What is Sciatica? How to Treat it

By: McKenzie Jones

Sciatica is a painful nerve condition that gets its name from the very nerve it affects, the sciatic nerve. When you consider that the sciatic nerve travels along the lower back via the hips, butt, and down each leg, it makes sense that people suffering from it tend to complain of lower back pain. Curiously, this condition usually only manifests along one side of the body.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Several symptoms can quickly clue a person in on whether or not they are dealing with a case of sciatica.

  • Paint that starts from the lower spine region, known as the lumbar, and spreads to the butt and along the back of a leg. There might be discomforting sensations anywhere along the sciatic nerve’s path but it most often follows this “course.”
  • Erratic levels of pain in the area. Sometimes it can feel like a minor ache, while other times it feels like you are being jabbed with a burning implement or even got zapped with electricity. The pain will usually be worse during coughing and sneezing and prolonged periods of being seated can worsen these issues. Again, this variable level of pain only manifests along one side of the body.
  • Some sciatic patients complain of numbness, tingling, or weakness in the relevant leg or foot; it is completely possible to feel pain in one section of the leg and feel numb in a separate part.

Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica usually happens when one of the following events occurs and compresses the sciatic nerve.

  • You experience a herniated disc. Your spine is composed of bones and discs. While the former is obvious, spinal discs are composed of a soft gelatinous “nucleus” surrounded by a rubbery “annulus;” herniated discs happen when the nucleus manages to seep out of a torn, damaged annulus.
  • Bone spurs manifest along the spine.
  • The spine becomes narrowed through a condition like spinal stenosis.

How to Prevent Sciatica

The best way to prevent sciatica is to look at the most common circumstances that contribute to it.

  • The spine can change as we age and scenarios like herniated discs and bone spurs are only more likely to occur the older a person gets.
  • Because excess body weight can place additional strain on the spine, it is best to try and stay lean through exercise and good dieting.
  • Jobs that involve a lot of back-twisting, handling heavyweights, or driving for long periods of time all play a role in sciatica but may not be a definitive source.
  • Lengthy Sits. Keeping active is a great way to avoid sciatica; people who stay seated for lengthy periods or whose lifestyle is mostly sedentary are far more likely to develop sciatica.
  • Diabetes manipulates the body’s blood sugar usage and can contribute to the sort of nerve damage that leads to nerve damage. In short, sciatica is another reason to practice good eating habits and avoid developing diabetes.

How to Treat Sciatica

Despite how raging the pain may be from a case of sciatica, sciatica treatment is usually resolved without surgery and can take just a few weeks. In the rare cases where conservative treatments fail to abate the symptoms or the subject has also developed extreme weakness in the legs, bowel, or bladder, doctors will resort to surgical options. If surgery is called for, the surgeon will perform a discectomy or laminectomy, procedures where they go into the part of the body that is compressing the sciatic nerve and either partly removes a bone or repair and/or replaces the herniated disc.

In Conclusion

Sciatica is a form of nerve damage, associated with the lower back, butt, and legs, that can ruin a person’s day. While the pain that flares up with this ailment can vary wildly, the fact remains that the patient is experiencing a pinch or other impairment along their sciatic nerve. Several factors contribute to sciatica and most of them can be prevented. Should you need to go to the doctor, only a small percent of sciatica cases require surgical intervention.


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