Do you have sciatica? What it is and how to handle it
Sciatica is defined as any pain that originates in the lower back and travels down the leg. According to Harvard Health, “as many as 40% of people will develop it during their lifetime, and the frequency increases as you age.”
Because sciatica is so common, it’s critical that you learn everything you can about it now so you can try to avoid it and know what to do if you do get it.
The Cleveland Clinic defines sciatica, which begins in the buttock/gluteal area, as “nerve pain from an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve.” The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, extending from your lower back to your hips and buttocks, down each leg, and finally to your foot.
What causes it?
Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve is pinched, most commonly by a herniated disc in the spine or a bone spur on a vertebra, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, it can be caused by a tumour pressing against it or by a condition such as diabetes.
How long does it take to develop?
Sciatica can develop gradually over several months, coming and going, or it can appear suddenly, causing excruciating pain. Furthermore, sciatica can occur without causing back pain, or vice versa, sciatica symptoms can occur without causing back pain.
What signs are there?
Sciatica pain is often described as “shooting” or “scorching.” It usually begins in the lower back and moves down to the buttocks or legs. The limb may experience burning or tingling in addition to numbness and paralysis. The symptoms are likely to worsen during the day, especially after prolonged sitting or standing.
Symptoms that are unusual
In addition to common symptoms such as back and leg pain, there are a few critical but uncommon symptoms of sciatica that should not be overlooked. The first is a sudden change in the ability to urinate and/or bowel, and the second is a progressive neurological problem accompanied by numbness, weakness, tingling, and increased sensitivity to pain.
How is it recognised?
After reviewing your medical history and discussing your symptoms, your doctor may recommend an MRI or CT scan to examine the bone and soft tissues in your back. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an MRI can “reveal nerve pressure, disc herniation, and any arthritic condition that may be pressing on a nerve.”
What are the different types of sciatica?
According to SPINE-health, there are four types of sciatic pain: acute, chronic, alternating, and bilateral. Acute is a condition with a sudden onset that usually lasts one to two months and may not require medical treatment. Chronic diseases are those that last longer than two months. Bilateral affects both legs at the same time, whereas alternate affects each leg individually.
Who stands the best chance of winning?
Sciatica can affect anyone, but men are three times more likely than women to develop it. All ages and fitness levels are affected, but adults in their 30s to 50s are most vulnerable, particularly those with acute or chronic back pain.
Differences between arthritis and sciatica
Although the symptoms of sciatica and arthritis can be similar, there are a few key differences to be aware of. Unlike sciatica, which causes “sharp, searing pain that extends from [their] lower spine down to [their] buttocks and [their] back of [their] leg, usually only on one side,” arthritis causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling on both sides of the body. However, sciatica can be caused by arthritis.
When should I seek medical attention?
Sciatica that is not severe will most likely resolve on its own over time. However, if your pain lasts more than a week, becomes unbearable, or worsens into severe lower back/leg pain, you should seek medical attention right away.
Its effects on smoking
According to one study, smoking “is a minor risk factor for lumbar radicular pain and clinically confirmed sciatica.” Fortunately, quitting smoking has been shown to reduce the risk of sciatica, though it does not completely eliminate it.
How can you avoid it?
Even though sciatica is not always preventable, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk, including regular exercise, paying attention to your posture when sitting for long periods of time, and avoiding back strain whenever possible. When carrying heavy items, keep your back straight and your knees bent.