Decoding the painful sciatica

Sciatica is actually the largest nerve which begins from nerve roots in the spinal cord in the lower back extending through the buttock area sending the nerve endings branches and extend down the lower limb to the ankle and foot. And as the name suggests sciatica pain is related to the nerve. However, it is not a medical diagnosis in itself but a symptom of an underlying medical condition. The pain is felt rising from the lower back to behind the thigh, radiating down below the knee and largely on one side.

The pain is tingling or numbness that is produced by an irritation of the nerve roots leading to the sciatic nerve. The pain is actually severe and more often it is resolved with non-operative treatments in few weeks. But people who have severe sciatica that’s associated with significant leg weakness or bowel or bladder changes may go for a surgery.

The possible causes for sciatica are:

The most common cause of sciatica is a bulging or lumbar herniated disc, which occurs when the soft inner material of the disc leaks out and irritates the root. But sciatica also can be a symptom of other conditions affecting the spine, like narrowing of the spinal canal, bone spurs that is caused by arthritis, or nerve root compression caused by injury. And in rare cases, it can also be caused by conditions that do not involve the spine, such as tumours or pregnancy.

 The common symptoms to look out for:

The most common symptom that is associated with sciatica pain is the extreme pain that radiates from your lower spine to the buttock and down the back of the leg. It might also accompany a feeling of discomfort almost anywhere along the nerve’s passage, but it more often than not follow a path from the low back to the buttock and the back of the thigh and calf.

It usually affects only one side of the lower body and often extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Although some symptoms are common for sciatica but the pain and symptoms depend and change as per the nerve which is affected and may go to the foot or toes. Also, for some people, the pain can be severe and debilitating while for others, the sciatica pain cab be infrequent and irritating. But it has the potential to get worse.

The pain can also vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating pain. Sometimes it can feel like a jolt or electric shock. It can be worse when one coughs or sneezes and can be aggravated by prolonged sitting. Some people also have numbness, tingling or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot. One might have pain in one part of the leg and numbness in another part.

How to treat it:

The most usual and common treatment of the pain is bed rest and avoidance of certain lifestyle habits, like prolonged sitting! A heating pad helps as well. Additional treatment for sciatica depends on what is causing the nerve irritation. If the symptoms do not improve, physiotherapy may be helpful, in some cases injections of medicines such as steroids, or stronger medicines such as muscles relaxants, or even surgery for severe cases.

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