Sciatica Nerve Pain: Everything You Need to Know
Sciatica is a serious nerve pain condition that should be taken seriously. At Holten Wellness Center we treat patients suffering from sciatica regularly. We are intimately familiar with the condition and understand that not every case is the same. We treat patients who are suffering from sciatica with the utmost care to prevent possibly permanent nerve damage.
The Facts about Sciatica
Sciatica most often presents itself as a pain from your lower back that runs down the back of your leg on one side of your body. Occasionally, people who suffer from sciatica may experience pain in their foot or toes. This pain is commonly described as:
It is possible for other symptoms to range in location and severity. Some people may experience mild aches while others experience more intense pain. Other symptoms of sciatica include:
- Constant pain on one side
- Pain that is worse when seated
- Numbness or weakness when moving your leg
- Sharp pain when standing or walking
- Difficulties standing or walking
With prompt treatment, you can prevent permanent nerve and tissue damage. While most cases of sciatica aren’t urgent, there are instances where immediate care is required. Due to the risks of delayed treatment, we suggest you be seen right away if you are experiencing severe symptoms including:
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- Increasing weakness
- Loss of sensations
With treatment, most people find relief from their symptoms within a matter of weeks or months as long as there isn’t a more serious underlying condition.
Causes of Sciatica
The cause of this painful condition can be traced back to two vertebrae in the lumbar region of your lower back. The sciatic nerves travel between these vertebrae, behind your hips, and down your buttocks. These nerves continue down the back of each leg, all the way to your foot. They are the largest nerves in your body. Pain is caused when one or both of these nerves become irritated. Most often the cause of the irritation resides in your back. This occurs in cases of:
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal tumors
- Sciatic nerve tumors
Most people who suffer from sciatic nerve pain are middle aged. Younger individuals typically only suffer from this condition if there’s an underlying issue or injury. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated lumbar disc. The herniated disc irritates the nerve until the issue is resolved. The second most common cause of sciatic nerve pain is degenerative disc disease. This is typically a condition brought on by aging. Other causes of sciatica are significantly rarer, but should be ruled out by a physician.
To diagnose sciatica your doctor will begin by taking a full medical history accompanied by an exam. They will discuss your symptoms with you and ask you to rate your level of pain. In an effort to rule out other conditions, your doctor may suggest running diagnostic tests such as:
- CT Scan
- Blood tests
During your exam your doctor will test the range of moment of your leg, knee, ankle, and foot. Difficulty with movements or weakened reflexes could lead to a diagnosis of sciatica. Your doctor will evaluate your test results to diagnose the cause of your sciatica and work with you to create a treatment plan for your specific condition.
Treatment for sciatica relies heavily on the underlying cause of the condition. There are some cases which require no specific treatment as they will resolve themselves. However, these cases of sciatic nerve pain are rare. In most other cases, your doctor will recommend a conservative treatment plan to start.
The most common way of treating sciatic nerve pain is to apply ice or heat to painful areas. Usually it is recommended to use ice for the first 72 hours then to use heat. Your doctor may recommend over the counter pain killers to help with pain management. However, it’s important to not get carried away under the effects of pain killers. While you may feel significantly less pain, it is still best to follow your doctor’s orders. You don’t want to overdo things because the painkillers are dampening your pain, only to worsen your condition. You also don’t want to restrict yourself to bed rest. While you do want to exercise caution with your daily movements, it is still important to move.
Other treatment options for sciatica include:
- Epidural steroid injections
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
Speak with your medical professional about what is causing your sciatica so you can get the best treatment possible. Keep moving but reduce your physical activity until you begin to see improvement.
If you’ve had sciatica in the past then you may be interested in learning how to prevent the condition from reoccurring. Follow these tips to lessen the likelihood of developing sciatic nerve pain:
- Avoid prolonged sitting or lying
- Avoid prolonged pressure on buttocks, back, and legs
- Lift objects carefully, while using correct posture
- Take care of your overall health
Our chiropractic patients who suffer from sciatica are provided with ideas for exercises and stretches to help prevent future injury. Our dedicated staff also makes every effort to help you live a happier and healthier life.
If you have any questions about sciatica, please call Holten Wellness Center at (937) 435-8480.