Sciatica is not a disease or a medical condition, but it is a manifestation of symptoms due to nerve irritation that may be caused by different medical conditions. Sciatic pain can be painful and in certain cases, disabling. People suffering from a sciatica tend to lose their ability to carry out their normal activities efficiently because of the pain that may restrict the movement of their lower extremities. The pain may radiate from the hips down the legs and when it is very painful enough, it can restrict mobility.
Why sciatica occurs?
The main cause of sciatic pain is sciatic nerve irritation. The sciatic nerve provides innervations to the muscles of the lower extremities. The pain follows the pathways of sciatic nerve innervations, which passes through the hips, thigh and down the knees. Its nerve root begins from the lumbar spinal cord, which also explains why the pain may often extend from the buttock area to the lower back. When the sciatic nerve is irritated or impinged, it may cause pain radiating down the legs. It is rare for the sciatic nerve to occur in both legs. It usually affects one leg only, depending which side of the nerve supplying either leg is affected.
Explaining the sciatic pain
The severity of the sciatic pain will depend upon the extent of the sciatic nerve injury or irritation. It is described as radiating pain because the irritation of the nerve in the lumbar spine will cause pain across the areas or body parts that it innervates. This explains why, although the injury is located along the lumbar area where the sciatic nerve is located, referred pain manifest along the buttocks, thigh, knees and the feet. The pain is characterized by a neurological pain that is described as tingling, burning and searing. As a result of sciatic nerve injury, pain and weakness will be experienced on the lower extremities whose muscles rely on the sciatic nerve to function. The pain and weakness usually subside once the condition that affects the sciatic nerve is resolved.
What causes sciatic nerve injury
The most cause of sciatica is a disc herniation that impinges on the sciatic nerve. The disk bulges and tend to press on the sciatic nerve, which in turn causes a radiating pain along the lower extremities. Abnormalities on the intervertebral discs can also affect the sciatic nerve. Other conditions that can affect the sciatic nerve function include a degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, disc herniation, infection, trauma on the lumbar spine, internal bleeding and spinal cord injury. Getting treatment for these conditions can relieve sciatica. Pregnancy can also cause temporary sciatic pain when the growing uterus impinges on the sciatic nerve.
Getting relief from sciatica
There are treatment methods can provide relief from the symptoms of sciatic pain. This includes the following:
- Heat or cold therapy is effective in soothing sore and aching muscles. It can provide pain relief on the superficial muscles.
- Pain medications can help minimize the pain. There are also muscle relaxants that can help reduce the inflammation and muscle spasm.
- To relieve the irritation to the sciatic nerve, lying down can also help ease the radiating pain. Avoid bending and prolonged walking to prevent the worsening of the sciatic pain.
- If your pain does not go away after a month without any improvement, your doctor may prescribe an epidural injection to introduce a steroid that will block the inflammatory activities in the nerve branch.
- Physical therapy is also a good intervention method to use. Treatment will include lower back conditioning and stretching exercises that will help relieve the tension and irritations on the sciatic nerve.
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