Sciatic nerve pain or sciatica refers to pain along the sciatic nerve’s path, from lower back to buttocks and legs.
Sciatic nerve pain is also know as Sciatica Pain which usually happens due to pressure on the nerve, usually on the buttock area. This can be due to frequent sitting on a hard surface. This may also cause the legs to become numb.
The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves; it is formed from the nerve roots that originated from the spinal cord. The nerve is connected from the spine, buttock, thighs and legs. This nerve is also responsible for the function and sensation of the foot and leg. One cause of sciatica is a herniated disc. This causes pressure that results in nerve irritation leading to pain. Sciatica may also occur due to osteoarthritis and disk degeneration due to aging. Sciatica usually disappears without treatment within one to three months. However, pain caused by sciatica may be a source discomfort.
Sciatic Nerve Pain Symptoms
A common symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back to the buttock and also the posterior side of the thigh. Discomforts may also be felt along the pathway of the sciatic nerve, but the pain is most likely to follow the path from the back to the back of the thighs.
The pain varies from person to person, from mild aches to excruciating discomforts. It may even feel like an electric shock. The pain may become worse when sneezing or coughing, and prolonged sitting. It usually affects only one leg.
Other symptoms include muscle weakness or numbness in the pathway of the nerve, especially in the foot or leg. The affected person may feel numbness in one leg and pain in the other. A tingling sensation may also be felt on the foot or toes. In rare cases and also the worse, the patient may experience cauda equina syndrome. This results on the loss of bowel and bladder control. When this symptom occurs, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.
Causes of Sciatica Pain
A common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc, but some conditions may also result in the increase in pressure on the sciatic nerve. This includes: lumbar spinal stenosis, spinal tumors, trauma, or sciatic nerve injury.
Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes narrowing in the areas of the spine. This may occur in the lower area of the spine; this condition is called lumbar spinal stenosis. The narrowing results in the increase in pressure in the sciatic nerve, which later leads to irritation.
Tumors in the spine area may also cause sciatic nerve injury. The tumor may grow in the spinal cord, in membranes such as the meninges, or between the vertebrae or spinal cord. The growth of tumor compresses the nerves and even the spinal cord itself.
Direct Trauma in the spine can also injure the sciatic nerve or lumbar nerve roots. This may be caused by falls, direct blow, or a car accident. Other causes of sciatic nerve pain may include diseases and disorder that affect the muscles, joints, and bones.
Diagnosis of Sciatic Nerve Pain
Diagnosis of sciatica includes taking medical history taking, physical examination, and laboratory examinations. The physician may ask questions about the pain; what makes it worse, how it started, and many more. During the physical examination, the doctor inspects the spine area, the thighs, legs, and foot. The patient may also be required to perform exercises to test for muscle strength as well as reflexes. Exercises may include: walking with heels or toes, squatting, and leg lifting. In sciatica, the pain may worsen in the performance of these exercises.
A spinal x-ray may also be required if a herniated disc or nerve damage is suspected. MRI is also useful in the diagnosis of sciatica. It provides cross-sectional images of the body part. Similar to MRI, CT scans also provides cross-sectional images of the body. The difference is that CT scans require an injection of a contrast dye. CT scans are not recommended for people allergic to the dye.
Treatment of Sciatic Nerve Pain
In most cases, sciatica disappears on its own without further treatment. However, the pain may cause extreme discomfort, but certain self-care measures exist for faster healing. These include: exercise, stretching, alternate hot and cold compress, as well as the use of over-the-counter medications.
The physician may also recommend the patient to consult a physical therapist. This is to aid the patient in designing a proper rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation programs are used to prevent injuries to reoccur. Rehabilitation may also include: improving flexibility, muscle strengthening, and correcting posture. Physical therapy should be started as early as possible and is to become a permanent part of the patient’s routine.
Patients with Sciatica Pain may also be prescribed by their doctor certain pain medications. This includes muscles relaxants and anti-inflammatory medications. Narcotics are also given for pain but only for short-term due to the risk for addiction.