3d rendered illustration of the sciatic nerve

An Overview Of Sciatica Pain

What is Sciatica Pain?

Sciatica pain is a type of nerve pain that starts along the lower extremity, due to the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The pain can be felt from the lower back and then branching out to hips, buttock and the leg. Under normal instances, sciatica only affects one side of the body.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Below are the common symptoms to watch out for if you are experiencing sciatica:

  • Pain or discomfort is felt from the lower back (lumbar), down to the buttock and behind the leg.
  • Feeling of burning sensation that can range from mild to severe, like an electric shock.
  • Cannot withstand prolonged sitting.
  • Feeling of numbness in the upper portion of the thighs or difficulty moving your leg or foot.
  • Pain increases when coughing or sneezing.
  • Unable to stand easily due to shooting pain at the lower back.
  • Muscle weakness in your leg.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control as the problem progresses.

Causes of Sciatica

  • Irritation of the sciatic nerve, from the nerve roots to the lumbar spine and all the way down to the buttock and lower limb area.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis, caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back.
  • Degenerative disc disease, due to the breakdown of discs.
  • Bone spurs resulting to the overgrowth of bone on your vertebrae.
  • If you are pregnant, the additional weight due to pregnancy could strain the lower back.
  • Nerve compression on rare cases, either due to a tumor or damaged from an illness like diabetes.

What are the risk factors involved?

  • Age can be the culprit of the changes in one’s spine like bone spur or herniated disk.
  • Obesity can also lead to the development of sciatica because any excess body weight can harm the spine.
  • Occupation may also be a risk factor, especially if a person’s work requires heavy lifting or longer hours of driving.
  • Prolonged sitting is another reason why some individuals experience sciatica pain.
  • Diabetes may also result to nerve damage and increase the possibility of having sciatica.

What are the recommended tests and diagnosis needed to confirm whether you have sciatica or not?

If you suspect you have sciatica, contact our office and the schedule an exam. One of our providers will conduct an exam to check your muscle strength and reflexes. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Walking on your toes or heels.
  • Standing up after a squat position.
  • Lying on your back and alternately lifting your legs straight in the air.

Other tests will be performed if the patient complains about a recurrence of severe levels of pain after a week’s check-up such as:

  • Spinal x-ray to verify if you have bone spur.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a better view of your back, bone and soft tissues. This is normally required if you are believed to have herniated disk.
  • Computerized tomography (CT scan) to get a clear imaging of the spine.

What are the possible treatments for sciatica?

For minor pain or discomfort, simple home care remedies as well as changes in your present lifestyle are often suggested:

Cold compress is the initial remedy to relieve any pain in the affected area. An ice pack or improvised cold pack like the use of a pack of frozen corn bits or peas wrapped around a clean towel and damp directly on the area. This procedure is done for 20 minutes and as often in a given day.

Warm compress is also performed after two or three days on the affected area. Heat packs, heating pad or heat lamp is used to lessen the pain.

Stretching exercises focused on the lower back are recommended to relieve minimal pain or discomfort.

Pain relievers may or may not be prescribed by one of our practitioners.

Other medical solutions used to treat sciatica may include a prescribed physical therapy treatment program from a licensed physical therapist.

Surgical procedure is the last and final option given to patients who show alarming signs of pain or discomfort, muscle weakness, bowel or bladder dysfunction.

Can the development of sciatica pain be prevented?

Although, this type of nerve pain cannot be totally prevented, there are some effective ways to lessen its occurrence. Below are some of the best practices:

Living an active lifestyle is the key in combating any sickness as well as building one’s strength and stamina. Exercise regularly and focus more on routine exercises that will strengthen your lower back.

Observing proper posture can improve your spine’s overall condition. If your work requires long periods of sitting, find a suitable chair that is specifically designed to support the lower back. Make sure when you are sitting, your knees and hips are level.

Avoid heavy lifting or frequent twisting of your body because this movement greatly affects your spine.