Sciatica overview of symptoms causes and treatment

Sciatica is a condition caused from irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, through the bottom and down the back of the leg. Sciatica can cause pain, weakness, numbness and pins and needles anywhere along the described route of the nerve. The pain can vary in intensity  from mild to severe pain/ discomfort depending on the degree of and length of nerve irritation. It can affect people of any age and is predominantly found in middle age populations.

The pain can be felt in the leg or botttom after sitting but can also persist with standing and walking. However usually patients describe sitting postures as worse than moving postures. In very severe cases (Cauda Equina) loss of bowel and bladder control, coupled with severe numbness in the bottom and legs should warrant immediate medical attention.

Causes of Sciatica:

Essentially the pain is caused by irritation of the nerve due to inflammation or compression. This irritation can arise from conditions such as Spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, Piriformis syndrome, poor posture and pregnancy. Stiff joints lumbar joints and tight lower back and bottom muscles (as a result of these other conditions) are the main culprit for causing nerve pain.

Lumbar spinal stenosis refers to a condition where the spinal canal narrows; Spondylolisthesis on the other hand describes a phenomena where one vertebra slips forward over the adjacent vertebra.This usually occurs at L4, L5 and S1. Degenerative disc disease is also known as wear and tear and is a normal process of aging, over time the discs are compressed and get shorter in height reducing the overall height of the spine.

Other factors to predispose an individual to suffer from such pain can be obesity and people that encourage excessive extension through the lower back (e.g ladies wearing high heels )

How to diagnose Sciatica?

You can seek the advice of a doctor who will examine your medical history, hips, back, nerves and legs to test for reflexes, flexibility, sensation, and strength. It is also possible to diagnose the condition through CT scans, MRI scans, and nerve conduction studies which may illustrate the actual compression.

Sciatica Treatment:

The focus of the treatment for Sciatica will be mainly to relieve pain, inflammation and pressure. For acute Sciatica, doctors advise to take rest. Oral steroids, non-steroidal inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and muscle relaxants are normally used as medical intervention in order to provide relief.

A course of physiotherapy is often prescribed to reduce symptoms by relaxing tight back extensors and stiff joints whilst teaching a person how to sit and move in a painfree manner. In addition core strengthening exercises would also be beneficial.

In severe cases surgery or epidural steroid injections at the base of the Sciatica nerve roots that are highly inflamed is also an option.

The key is to seek treatment sooner rather than later when experiencing symptoms down the leg.

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