Sciatica is the term referred to the pain caused by irritation of sciatic nerve into the buttock and hip. Sciatica is caused by a number of reasons that are associated with the compression of nerves in the lumbar spine. Sciatica is the longest and the widest nerve in the human body. Sciatica pain starts from the lower back and spreads toward the knee and to the end of the spinal column. Patients might feel weakness and tingling leg or toes. Usually, it occurs during pregnancy due to the compression of the sciatic nerve.
People between the ages of 30-50 years are victims of sciatica. According to estimation, 40% of people will get sciatica in their life.
Causes & Risk Factors
The most common cause of sciatica is an abnormal intervertebral disc, other causes include
- Osteophyte (referred to a bone spur)
- Tumours (swelling caused by an abnormal growth of tissue)
- Spinal stenosis (refers to the narrowing of the space between the spinal cords)
- Internal bleeding
- Muscle eruption in the back
- Injury or inflammation in the back can also affect the sciatic nerve.
Risk factors for sciatica are as follows
- Age – People between the ages of 30-40 years have a higher risk of experiencing sciatica.
- Profession – People with jobs that require heavy weight lifting.
- People who sit for a long time are experiencing sciatica more often than people who are active.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
A complete medical history and physical examination are used to diagnose sciatica. The patient just mentions the pain in the lower back radiating towards the feet. Physical examination involves stretching exercises such as raising the leg straight.
Medical diagnosis includes X-rays, MRI, and CT scans. X-rays show the evidence of narrowed discs, a tumour affecting the spinal cords and misalignment of herniated discs.
MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) produces images the evidence of the show of misalignment of vertebral discs and ligaments.
CT Scans (Computed Tomography) allows visualisation of spinal cords and nerves by injecting contrast dye into the spine.
Treatments for Sciatica
Sciatica treatment is associated to reduce pain and enhance mobility. Treatment includes physical therapy, medication, surgery, spinal injections, and complete bed rest.
- Physical Therapy includes a program of exercise recommended by a specialist depending upon the cause of sciatica. The person suffering from the pain must follow the directions provided by the physical therapist to reduce the pain in the sciatic nerve. It includes aerobic exercise (walking) and stretching exercises to reduce irritation of the muscles.
- Medication includes the use of painkiller medicines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen to decrease pain and stiffness.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs medicines are injected into the lower back, hip to reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation in the nerves.
- Surgery for sciatica refers to remove the disc herniation or spinal stenosis to eliminate the actual cause of the pain. It is proposed when medication and physical treatment does not produce desired results, or the patient has progressive symptoms and severe pain.
Prevention from sciatica
Although complete prevention of sciatica is not possible, it is possible to reduce the risks of sciatica by following these steps.
- Proper lifting techniques such as bringing yourself up straight, and holding the objects closer to the chest.
- Reduce disc degeneration by avoiding smoking.
- Regular stretching exercises.
- Use proper posture while sitting, sleeping, and standing to reduce pressure on your lower back.
- Avoid long-term sittings.