Sciatica can be a confusing term to understand, especially if you’ve never needed to research it. Sciatica is the name of a common form of pain that affects a nerve that runs from the base of your spine to the base of your feet. The sciatic nerve runs along the back of your leg and describes a range of symptoms that can occur due to a multitude of reasons.
Sciatica can affect your daily life as it’s a pain that can be unbearable for some. The level of pain you experience will depend on how affected the nerve is. Those who have severe levels of pain should always seek medical attention as it could be a sign of a deeper condition. Sciatica can even change the way you walk as most sufferers will adjust the way they walk to deal with the pain. Because of the way sciatica affects the nerve, there will be more comfortable ways of walking that will temporarily mitigate the pain. This is not a long-term solution however and will often only mask the pain that is lying underneath.
In this article, we’re going to explain Sciatica further, as well as discuss the causes of Sciatica back pain as well as certain risk factors that you can work to avoid in your day to day life.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica can be defined as the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body. Due to where the nerve is located, it can cause a range of pains leading from your lower back into the back of your leg. Stress to the sciatic nerve can also result in knee pain as there are nerve endings throughout the back of the leg that can be affected. Cases of Sciatica are usually temporary but it will all depend on the severity of the irritation. Sciatica can cause a range of discomforts from sporadic back pain to knee pains.
Pressure on the sciatic nerve will cause a range of symptoms, however, these can also be a result of spondylolisthesis. This is where a vertebra has slipped which puts a lot of pressure onto the sciatic nerve. This pressure will irritate the nerve which is where the pain/symptoms can appear from.
Irritation of the nerve can come from a range of causes. Compression of the sciatic nerve will usually only occur on one side but can occur in both. Symptoms of Sciatica usually consist of:
- Sharp pain that runs from your lower back to the back of your leg or buttock.
- Burning or shooting pains from your lower back running through to the back of your legs
- Pain that worsens when you’re sitting
- Numbness, tingling and/or weakness in your lower back/back of the leg
- Pain that worsens/is aggravated by coughing or sneezing
- Sharp/shooting pains that make it difficult to walk
What can cause Sciatica?
Age can be a risk factor for Sciatica as age-related changes can aggravate the issue. Herniated disks and bone spurs are one of the more common causes of Sciatica back pain. Around 90% of all cases of sciatica is due to spinal disc herniation. This herniated disc presses on the nerve roots which can cause Sciatica.
Obesity can also be a cause of Sciatica as it can cause extra stress on the spine. Obesity can contribute to changes in the spine which can cause Sciatica.
Repetitive stress can play a role in a lot of cases of Sciatica as occupations that require you to twist your back or to lift heavy loads can affect the nerve. Those with sedentary occupations can also suffer from Sciatica as sitting for extended periods of time can contribute to back pain.
Diabetes is also a condition that can cause Sciatica as sufferers have increased risk of nerve damage. People who suffer from diabetes can experience an increased risk of nerve compression which can come across as “sciatica-like” pain which is indistinguishable without medical intervention. This is caused by neuropathy which causes burning sensations, numbness and shooting pains in one or both legs.
Sciatica isn’t usually permanent but the symptoms and effects can be long-lasting if you don’t take steps to mitigate/resolve the pain. There is a range of Sciatica treatment at home that you can try such as exercises, stretches and other mobility improvement activities. Most sufferers can take pain-killers to subdue the pain however those experiencing large amounts of pain should seek professional medical advice.
We are happy to answer questions you may have on Sciatica and look forward to hearing from you.