What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is an inflammation of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve stretches from the spinal cord to the end of each leg and may become inflamed for a number of reasons. These can include age-related changes in the spine, obesity, or a sedentary lifestyle. Usually, sciatica develops gradually over time as the nerve is compressed. This results in pain along the nerve pathway, as well as numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected area.
- Piriformis syndrome, a muscle disorder
- Nerve damage from diabetes
- Pelvic injury
Since a sedentary lifestyle contributes to sciatic problems. Individuals whose occupations require prolonged sitting, extensive driving or frequent air travel are at greater risk of developing the disorder.
The most common symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lumbar (lower) region of the spine into the buttock and down the back of the leg. As a result, the sole of the foot may become affected. Patients with this condition may experience a variety of other sensations in that region, including:
- Jolts of acute pain
Sudden movements that occur with sneezing, coughing, or standing after an extended period of sitting may cause an increase in discomfort.
When Should I Call My Spine Specialist?
As may happen after an accident, the symptoms of sciatica may suddenly set in. Under those circumstances, If the patient has difficulty controlling their bladder or bowels when this occurs, they should seek immediate medical attention.
Through physical examination and imaging tests, sciatica can be diagnosed. Once the doctor gives the diagnoses, they can treat it successfully with rest, ice packs, physical therapy and over-the-counter pain medications. Anti-inflammatory corticosteroid injections may also be administered. Although in most instances, sciatica resolves in 6 to 8 weeks, a patient may have repeated bouts of the disorder. The patient can prevent such flare-ups through a regimen of regular exercise.