Sciatica is commonly associated with low back pain, however, sciatica may also generally occur due to a variety of other health issues. The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body. The sciatic nerve extends from the lower back, or lumbar spine, down the buttocks, hips, and thighs, into the legs, knees, and feet. The sciatic nerve is in charge of controlling many muscles in the legs and it also provides feeling to the skin of the majority of the lower extremities.
Sciatica, also referred to as sciatic nerve pain, is not an injury or condition itself but rather a collection of well-known symptoms. Several healthcare professionals estimate that up to 80 percent of people may experience some form of back pain throughout their lifetime, including low back pain and sciatica. The purpose of the article below is to discuss the causes and symptoms of low back pain and sciatica as well as demonstrate the treatment approaches to improve health and wellness.
Causes and Symptoms of Sciatica
The most common symptoms associated with sciatica include pain and discomfort along the length of the sciatic nerve, tingling sensations or “pins-and-needles” in the feet and toes as well as numbness. The painful symptoms may vary in severity and these may also often become aggravated by sitting for extended periods of time. Sciatica is common in a variety of health issues, however, an estimated 90 percent of cases are due to a herniated disc. Other common causes of sciatica include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis or the narrowing of the spinal canal in the low back
- Spondylolisthesis, a condition where a vertebra slips forward over the vertebra below it
- Spinal tumors, which may compress or impinge the sciatic nerve
- Infection, which may ultimately affect the spine
- Other causes like an injury to the lumbar spine or lower back
- Cauda equina syndrome, a rare but serious condition which affects the nerves in the lower part of the spinal cord; it generally requires immediate medical attention, and
- Pregnancy, which can affect approximately 50 to 80 percent of pregnant women.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sciatica
If the sciatica symptoms are moderate and don’t last more than 4 to 8 weeks, it’s referred to as acute sciatica, and immediate medical attention isn’t generally required. As for chronic sciatica which does require immediate medical attention, a complete medical history may help speed up the diagnosis process. Shooting pain down the length of the leg with physical activities generally indicates sciatica. Imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, may help determine the source of sciatica.
Acute Sciatica Treatment
Most cases of acute sciatica can be treated utilizing a variety of self-care measures, which include:
- Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen,
- Stretches and exercises, such as walking
- Hot or cold therapy. It is generally helpful to alternate between the two
Not all treatments are suitable for everybody; individuals may need to talk to their healthcare professional.
Chronic Sciatica Treatment
Treatment for chronic sciatica generally involves a combination of self-care measures and medical treatment, including:
- physical therapy
- chiropractic care
- cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT
Surgery may be an option if symptoms have not improved with other treatment approaches. Surgical options include:
- Lumbar laminectomy or the widening of the spinal cord in the lower back to reduce pressure on the nerves.
- Discectomy, the partial or entire removal of a herniated disc
Depending on the cause of sciatica, a surgeon will go over the risks and benefits of surgery and suggest the best option.
Stretches and Exercises
As previously mentioned above, stretches and exercises can help improve sciatica symptoms. This allows patients to:
- Alleviate sciatica symptoms on their own
- Reduce or prevent the use of drugs and/or medications
- Find relief and comfort for sciatica symptoms during flare-ups
Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, is a collection of symptoms, rather than a single injury or condition, characterized by pain and discomfort, tingling sensations, and numbness anywhere along the length of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body which extends from the lower back, down the buttocks, hips, and thighs, into the legs, knees, and feet. The compression or impingement of the sciatic nerve and irritation due to a herniated disc, among other health issues, can ultimately cause sciatica symptoms and low back pain. – Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
Low Back Pain
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The purpose of the article was to discuss and demonstrate the low back pain associated with sciatica. Sciatica is a collection of symptoms characterized by pain and discomfort, tingling sensation, and numbness. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal and nervous health issues as well as functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topic Discussion: Foot Orthotics
Low back pain and sciatica are common health issues which affect many individuals worldwide. However, did you know that chronic pain may be due to foot problems? Health issues originating in the foot may ultimately cause imbalances in the spine, such as poor posture, which can cause the well-known symptoms of low back pain and sciatica. Custom foot orthotics, individually designed with 3-arch support can help promote overall health and wellness by supporting and promoting good posture and correcting foot problems. Custom foot orthotics can ultimately help improve low back pain and sciatica.
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