The most common misconception of sciatica is that it is a medical condition in and of itself. However, sciatica actually refers to a group of symptoms caused by other issues in your lower back!
Sciatica specifically describes the pain that runs up and down your legs from your buttocks or lower back. It is caused by any spinal condition that compresses the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the buttocks and down each leg.
Sciatica is most commonly associated with disc herniations (particularly around the lower back) and bone spurs. On rare occasions, it may be the result of a chronic disease, such as diabetes, or even a tumour. Sciatica is hence considered a symptom of a condition and is itself not a condition.
Besides a sharp pain that radiates down the leg, some individual symptoms and complications associated with sciatica include:
- Numbness, tingling or change of sensation in the leg(s)
- Complain of tiring or muscle weakness in the leg(s)
- Worsened pain in one leg while changing posture (e.g. sitting, bending forward, standing up)
As the sciatic nerve branches out into each leg, sciatica is typically felt in one leg at a time. On some occasions, it may be felt in both legs. It is often asymmetrical when both legs are involved
Sciatica can be experienced by patients of any age. However, certain groups are more susceptible to the disc herniations and bone spurs that cause sciatica:
- Those who work in professions that require lifting heavy loads for long periods of time
- Patients aged 30-40, especially those who lead sedentary lifestyles
- Patients experiencing spinal degeneration (especially those in old age)
- Those who smoke
- Those who are obese
Is sciatica curable? The answer is yes! Sciatica treatment depends on the conditions that cause it, but there are ways to manage the pain until you can seek professional treatment.
Sciatica tends to persist for an average of 4-6 weeks. During this time, you can engage in mild physical activity, such as lower back stretches. Research suggests that too much rest actually aggravates sciatica, but gentle physical activity like a light stretching exercise helps improve spinal flexibility, range-of-motion and core strength that help strengthen your spine against sciatica-causing conditions in the future. They may also alleviate pain if done correctly and with supervision. The video below demonstrates some stretches to relieve sciatica pain.
Stretches to help relieve sciatica pain.
For more immediate relief, heat and ice therapy may help. Heat encourages blood flow to the affected area and expedites healing while ice reduces inflammation caused by sciatica-inducing conditions. Changing your posture every twenty minutes also relieves the affected area of pressure that may worsen the pain.
That being said, the safest option is to seek professional help. Chiropractors can trace the root cause of your sciatica and recommend specific, tailored exercises that promote targeted, more efficient healing. If your sciatica lasts more than 4-6 weeks, or you start experiencing more severe symptoms such as urinary incontinence, seeing a professional is even more imperative.
We hope that this post on sciatica has helped clear up any misconceptions, as well as equipped you with tools to recognise conditions such as disc herniations and bone spurs! If you have any questions, call us at 62084669 or drop us an email email@example.com!