If you suffer from sciatica, you will know just how intense the pain is. It infiltrates into all areas of life because the movement is restricted and even, sitting down for long periods can be excruciating. Unfortunately, it can take up to 6-weeks for improvement to be noted and medical treatment may be necessary during that time. The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and it has various nerve roots that branch out from the spine which combines and make up the sciatic nerve. Pain occurs when compression of the nerve occurs at the point of origin.
Although people tend to think of sciatica as being a stand-alone condition, it is often a symptom of other underlying medical conditions and so, seeking medical advice is paramount.
These other conditions include:
- Lumber herniated disc – often called ruptured disc, protruding discs or slipped disc. It occurs when the inner material of the disc herniates through the outer layer and this creates a pinching/irritation of the nerve.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – this is related to the natural aging process of the spine and commonly affects those over the age of 60. It often coincides with arthritis of the spine which is also a contributing factor for sciatica. There is a narrowing of the spinal canal which may occur through a bulging disc, enlarged facet joints or, soft tissue overgrowth.
- Degenerative disc disease – again, this occurs with age and is generally diagnosed when inflammatory proteins from within are exposed. These irritate the nerve root.
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction – when this joint becomes irritated, it can also aggravate the L5 nerve. This nerve which is located on the top of the sacroiliac joint will cause pain similar to sciatica and certainly, leg pain will occur.
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis – where a small stress fracture occurs, one vertebrae may slip onto another and the nerve is pinched leading to sciatic pain.
The symptoms of sciatica are intense. Pain radiates down the leg, potentially affecting the foot and the toes. There may be a burning or tingling session or even a sense of numbness. Weakness in the leg may also make it difficult to move. There may be a consistent pain in one buttock and, generally, the pain of sciatica will increase when in a seated position.
Sciatica rarely occurs before the person is 20-years of age and, typically develops when someone is in their 40’s or 50’s. It is a common condition and potentially, affects over 40% of the population. This is an injury that does not just occur but rather develops and this is why medical advice is important to discover any underlying issues.
Additional reasons as to why sciatica occurs include:
- Muscle strain – where there is inflammation or muscle spasm this can increase pressure to the nerve root.
- Scar tissue – where scar tissue compresses a lumbar nerve root, the symptoms of sciatica can be experienced
- Pregnancy – due to weight gain, hormonal changes and changes to the center of gravity, this can also lead to sciatica being experienced.
Sciatica Pain Treatment
In the main, treatment will include rest and applying hot or cold compresses along with anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. Following a medical diagnosis, anti-seizure medications or muscle relaxants may be prescribed to help alleviate the symptoms. To aid recovery, you may be offered physical therapy which helps to strengthen the muscles of the back and improves posture. Flexibility will also be reviewed. If the pain is incredibly intense, you may be offered steroid injections to help reduce consistent pain but, these do not last for long periods.
Sometimes, surgery is required, and this could be to remove any bone spurs or even parts of any herniated disc so to avoid compression of the sciatic nerve. Surgery will require rest and recuperation over a period thereafter. Stem cell treatments offer much for sciatic nerve recovery and these cells when injected into the relevant place have been shown to heal damage to tissue and it does this by creating new healthy cells. Although typically, sciatic pain treatment can be self-managed, there are options where health concerns require medical assistance.