Sciatica is not a condition but rather an indication that something is wrong with the sciatic nerve. Most of the time, it is because of a herniated or slipped disc. The pain radiates from irritation of the sciatic nerve. People sometimes mix this pain up with general back pain. However, the pain from sciatica is not just in the back. It can run from the lower back, down the legs, and to the knee.
This is because that is how long the sciatic nerve is. It ends just below the knee and starts from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the legs. It is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It controls sensation in the lower foot and controls several muscles in the lower leg. So, what are some of the common causes of sciatica?
The common causes of sciatica vary. They include injuries like falling or spinal tremors, herniated disks, and spinal stenosis.
Herniated Disks - Herniated disks happen when the first layer of the cartilage separating the spinal bones rips. This causes lower limb pain and numbness.
Spinal Stenosis - Spinal stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of the lower spinal canal. The narrowing puts pressure on your spinal cord. This includes your sciatic nerve roots.
Spondylolisthesis - This refers to the pinching of the sciatic nerve when one vertebra extends over another. It is a degenerative disc disorder.
Piriformis Syndrome - The piriformis muscle connects the lower part of your spine to the thigh bones. When it involuntarily tightens, it causes sciatica. Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder. It worsens when you sit down for long.
So how do you know if you have sciatica?
The main symptom is a shooting pain or constant burning sensation. This radiates from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the leg or feet.
Numbness in the leg.
Lower back pain.
Pain in the hip.
Tingling or weakness in the feet and toes.
A feeling of heaviness in one leg.
Burning when you pee or blood in your pee.
Incontinence or loss of bladder or bowel control.
The pain varies in severity, depending on how long you have been sitting. If you experience the last three, see a doctor immediately as a matter of urgency.
There are certain factors or behavior that put you at risk of developing sciatica. These include age, certain occupations, diabetes, and smoking. As the body ages, it accumulates wear and tear. More parts start to break down.
Some occupations that involve lifting heavy objects and sitting for long periods can also lead to sciatica. Diabetes increases your likelihood of getting sciatica as it causes nerve damage. Smoking can cause the breakdown of the outer layer of your spinal discs.
Lying in bed or avoiding your normal activities can worsen sciatica. Thus, you should keep to your routine as much as possible. Your doctor will give you tips on how to deal with sciatica pain. Some of the common home treatments are:
Cold compresses or ice packs to reduce swelling.
Hot packs to reduce swelling. Alternate with the cold packs in-between days.
Gently stretching the lower back.
Medications like ibuprofen and aspirin for pain and muscle relaxers.
For more on sciatica, visit Petito-Ross Chiropractic Center at our office in Hamilton, New Jersey. You can call (609) 581-1300 today to schedule an appointment.