Sciatica – is a pain in the Backside
When dealing each day with back injury and back care we often come across conditions that initially frighten off the untrained seating specialist. In a series of articles to explain the terminology and symptoms Status offers a background to key issues.
Sciatica is the name given to any sort of pain that is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks, and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet.
When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, numbness and a tingling sensation that radiates from your lower back and travels down one of your legs to your foot and toes.The pain can range from being mild to very painful, and may be made worse by sneezing, coughing, or sitting for a long period of time.
Some people with sciatica may also experience muscle weakness in the affected leg.
While people with sciatica can also have general back pain, the pain associated with sciatica usually affects the buttocks and legs much more than the back.
In the vast majority of cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated or “slipped” disc. This is when one of the discs that sit between the bones of the spine (the vertebrae) is damaged and presses on the nerves.
Less common causes include spinal stenosis (narrowing of the nerve passages in the spine), a spinal injury or infection, or a growth within the spine (such as a tumour). You can minimise your risk of developing a slipped disc or back injury that could lead to sciatica by adopting a better posture and lifting techniques at work, as well as stretching before and after exercise, and exercising regularly.
Many cases of sciatica will pass in around six weeks without the need for treatment.
However, a combination of things you can do at home – such as taking over-the-counter painkillers, exercising and using hot or cold packs – may help reduce the symptoms until the condition improves.
In more persistent cases, you may be advised to follow a structured exercise programme under the supervision of a physiotherapist, have injections of anti-inflammatory and painkilling medication into your spine, and/or take stronger painkiller tablets.
In rare cases, surgery may be needed to correct the problem in your spine.
Source: NHS Choices