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Sciatica is the name given to a pain symptom resulting from irritation of the sciatic nerve. In other words, sciatica is a specific symptom of one type of back pain.
The longest and widest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve controls several muscles in the lower legs. Beginning in the lower back, the sciatic nerve runs down the lower back, through the buttocks and ends just below the knee. It is this nerve that allows the lower legs to be sensitive to touch as well as controls many of the muscles in the lower legs. Anything that irritates this nerve can cause mild to severe pain that may radiate down the lower back through the buttocks and into the legs.
Sciatica may present acutely or chronically. Acute sciatica, or short term sciatica, may occur suddenly; however, it will resolve after four to eight weeks without professional treatment.
Over the counter pain killers and hot and cold packs may help reduce this pain. Exercise can also help alleviate the discomfort of acute sciatica.Chronic sciatica is sciatica that persists longer than eight weeks. The pain of chronic sciatica can be relieved with a combination of interventional techniques, or decompression therapy, as well as exercise and medication.
The spinal column consists of vertebrae, nerves and discs. Discs, which are made of cartilage, act as a cushion between vertebrae enabling flexibility in the spine. A herniated disc occurs when the disc is temporarily pushed out of place. This will put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Infection may irritate the sciatic nerve.
A breakdown of the discs.
Sometimes a disc may shift forward over the vertebra below it resulting in this condition. The movement of the disc may pinch the sciatic nerve.
This condition occurs when the area surrounding the spinal cord narrows. The narrowing of this area may compress the sciatic nerve.
Sometimes, although infrequently, a tumor within the spine may compress the sciatic nerve root.
Risk factors refer to lifestyle or genetic factors that may increase the likelihood of developing a disease or condition. Risk factors for sciatica include the following:
• Age: As people get older, their disc may deteriorate. Individuals in their 30s and above have a greater risk of developing sciatica.
• Profession: People who work in professions that require heavy lifting may develop sciatica.
• Sedentary Lifestyle: Individuals who are physically inactive or who sit for long periods of time are more likely to develop sciatica.
Sciatic pain is a shooting pain along the sciatic nerve ranging from the lower back, through the buttocks and down the back of either leg. Usually sciatica will affect only one side of the lower body. Sciatic pain may be indicated by the following symptoms:
• Pain in the buttocks or leg that may become worse after sitting and/or a persistent pain on one side of the buttocks.
• Burning or tingling down the leg
• Weakness, numbness or difficulty in moving the leg or foot
• Shooting or burning pain that increases when standing
• Sometimes pain in the foot or toes on the affected side
If you are experiencing loss of bladder or bowel control or your lower limbs are becoming progressively weaker, seek immediate medical attention.
Limited rest, exercise, over-the-counter medications, hot & cold packs, massage therapy, physical therapy
For some cases, surgery may be warranted.
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