It might not get talked about as much as it should, but sciatic nerve pain is a big health issue that affects thousands of people every week. In fact, according to some statistics, the condition actually arises for an estimated 40 percent of the adult population during their lifetime.
If you have been struck down with pain that radiates down the back of your leg in recent days, weeks, or months, or have noticed some tingling or numbness that extends down to your foot, it is possible that you’re suffering from sciatica right now. Sciatic nerve pain happens when the body’s sciatic nerve is compressed, and can cause high levels of pain and a big disruption to your everyday life.
“Sciatic nerve pain is a big
health issue that affects thousands
of people every week.”
Want to find out more about some of the symptoms, causes, and treatments for this problem? Read on for the lowdown.
Common Sciatica Symptoms
To diagnose sciatic nerve pain, a medical practitioner will take notes of your medical history, run some tests, and give you a comprehensive physical exam. As such, it is important not to self-diagnose, but rather to seek a professional opinion to ensure you’re not suffering from something else. Note though, that there are some common symptoms you can be on the lookout for and communicate to your doctor if and when you notice them.
For starters, one of the indicators of sciatica that shows up most often is unilateral leg pain from the lower hip and bottom down. You may get some back pain, but typically the pain is lower. It can also radiate down to your feet and/or toes.
Other signs include numbness and paresthesia (an abnormal sensation such as a burning, tingling, pricking, or tickling of the skin) in the lower parts of the body. If you have sciatic nerve pain you could also find yourself feeling weak in the knee of the leg that’s having issues. This weakness may be present in your whole leg too. In addition, you could find you have significant pain but struggle to identify its actual location (unlike muscular pain, which can typically be felt when you press down in an area).
Another symptom to take note of, and one that can actually be an alert for a surgical emergency, is if you find yourself losing control of your bladder and/or bowel movements. Although this is rare, and only happens in a small percentage of sciatica cases, it can unfortunately lead to permanent bladder and bowel function damage. It arises when the spinal column puts a huge amount of pressure on the sciatic nerve, and needs to be operated on straight away.
There are many different reasons why your sciatic nerve can be compressed and you can be feeling pain. In particular, if you have a lumbar herniated disc this can cause such a problem. Also known as a bulging disc, pinched nerve, slipped disc, protruding disc, or ruptured disc, this issue arises when the soft inner material of one of your spinal discs leaks out (herniates) through the fibrous outer core, and then irritates or pinches the contiguous nerve root.
Sciatic nerve pain can also be caused by lumbar degenerative disc disease. While disc degeneration can often occur at some level as we age, if you have this disease you will find yourself having to deal with a lot of weakness in the discs from an earlier age. In turn, these weakened discs will go through excessive micro-motions, which leads to internal inflammatory proteins becoming exposed. From there, the nerve root(s) can become irritated and painful. Another issue with spinal degeneration which can cause sciatic nerve pain is bone spurs (osteophytes). These can press against the spinal nerve and give you pain.
There are numerous other reasons why you might develop sciatic nerve pain. For example, you could have isthmic spondylolisthesis, where a small stress fracture leads one vertebra to slip forward onto another; you could be suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis (where your spinal canal narrows); or you could have arthritis in your spine and other types of inflammation that is affecting the nerve.
Options for Treating the Problem
Rather than simply self-medicating to deal with the pain of sciatica, it is important to speak with your doctor, a specialist at a pain solution treatment center, or a qualified practitioner at another clinic where you can have the cause of your nerve pain determined and a course of treatment prescribed.
For some short-term pain relief, you might like to try out yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care and/or massage. Spinal injections and other types of interventional procedures can be used to lower the pressure on your sciatic nerve, and reduce your pain levels in turn; or you can follow a carefully-managed medication program to get some relief from the pain.
For some people, the only real way to treat the sciatic nerve pain comprehensively and for the long term is through surgery. Speak with a surgeon about some of the minimally-invasive procedures which can be undertaken to get you feeling better and back to your normal lifestyle within quite a short timeframe.
Have you or a loved one suffered from sciatic nerve pain?
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