What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is mild to severe nerve pain that originates in the buttock area and is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. The sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in the body and one each side travels from the spine down to the feet and has five branches. There are a variety of lower back and spine problems that can cause sciatic pain. Normally we find herniated discs, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and spondylolisthesis to be the most common issues causing sciatic pain.
Common Sciatica Pain
How do you know if the pain you are experiencing is caused by the sciatica? Sciatica pain can be mild or severe in pain. Common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Constant, sharp, or radiating pain on one side of the buttock or leg
- Pain that worsens when moving or sitting
- Leg pain causing a burning or tingling sensation
- Numbness, weakness and difficulty moving the leg or toes
- Sharp pain when you try to stand or walk
Sciatic pain can be frequent or infrequent and can be a minor nuisance or completely incapacitating. While the symptoms are painful, it is important to know that sciatic nerve pain rarely causes tissue damage.
Understanding the Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica
The sciatic nerve is the longest single nerve in the body, with several roots that branch out into the lower spine and back. Sciatic symptoms will occur when the nerve is irritated or compressed. The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and has nerve roots and endings that come together through the lower spine, and then moves down through the buttocks and down both legs. Depending upon where the nerve is pinched, patients can end up with leg pain, numbness, and tingling through the leg and into the toes.
About 40% of Americans experience sciatic pain once during their life. Patients experiencing sciatic pain normally see symptoms begin in middle age, around ages 40 or 50. However, we do see a number of pregnant women experience sciatic pain as their body changes throughout the pregnancy. Sciatic pain tends to develop over time and but can be something that occurs suddenly.
There are a number of factors than can increase the risk of someone experience sciatica.
- Bad posture
- Physical job/ labor intensive
- Inactive lifestyle
- Weak core muscles
All of these are lifestyle factors that can increase someone’s likeliness of experiencing sciatica.
Very mild cases of sciatic pain will subside on its own. Patients experiencing moderate to severe sciatica pain normally start to feel better after a few weeks or months of effective treatment. We normally recommend at-home pain management with heat and ice for mild flare-ups. Patients experiencing severe pain need to visit our Salt Lake medical clinic for additional treatments. During a physical exam various tests will be conducted to pinpoint the location of the pain and find which nerves are involved. Epidural steroid injections are one of the most effective treatments for patients experiencing severe pain. Other treatments include physical therapy, rest, heat and ice compresses, anti-inflammatory medications, and stretching. Most sciatic pain lasts about 4-6 weeks but can be longer. The time it takes for the pain to disappear depends on the level of inflammation of the effected nerves. Numbness usually lingers after the pain subsides.
Sciatica is caused by an underlying medical condition, so our treatment is designed to focus on addressing the cause of the symptoms. Our experts are focused on make sure your sciatica pain is gone for good and doesn’t come back anytime soon. Contact Life Health Medical Center today for additional information on sciatic pain and how you can find relief.