“Lower back pain or buttock pain or is it a leg pain?” If you too are getting such confusing pains more frequently then you need to know about the real culprit which is none other than Sciatica – the longest and the widest nerve in the human body.
Sciatica (pronounced sigh-AT-ih-ka) nerves are about the size of the little finger and comprise of two lumbar nerve roots and sacral roots joining in the lowest part of the spine, passing behind the hip joint, to the buttock, and down the back of the leg to the ankle and foot. Hence, when the pain radiates it travels from back to the foot, confusing our mind.
The pain of sciatica nerve is sharp shooting pain like an electric current and even burns and tingles rigorously. Its intensity ranges from minor to unbearable and there is no fixed pattern as one can experience pain in one leg while numbness in other.
Pinched or an irritated sciatic nerve is the root cause of Sciatica pain which may take place suddenly due to lifting something heavy or moving quickly. Other causes can be:
• A herniated (slipped) disk
• Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
• Infections in or around the lumbar spine or a tumour
• Injury and internal bleeding
• Muscle spasm in the back or buttocks
• Spondylolisthesis (one backbone slips forward/backwards over another)
• Pinched nerves due to osteoarthritis and fractures
• Carrying large or hard objects in the back pockets or sitting on a hard surface for an extended period of time.
• Overweight, lack of exercise, high heels, sleeping on a mattress that is too hard or too soft, diabetes, and age.
• A throbbing pain with a burning sensation, anywhere along the sciatic nerve
• Numbness in the leg along the nerve
• Tingling sensation (pins and needles) in the feet and toes
• Difficulty moving the leg or foot
• A constant pain on one side of the rear
• A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
• Pain worsens with prolonged sitting, standing, coughing and sneezing
Seek immediate medical attention if you have:
• Loss of feeling in the affected leg
• Extreme weakness and numbness in the upper thighs
• Loss of bowel or bladder function
• Hot or cold compression packs – It the simplest and best methods to get instant relief from pain
• Acupuncture and massage therapy – Continuous sessions of the traditional Chinese medicine practice – Acupuncture or simple massages can help a healthy release of endorphins – natural chemicals that act like pain relievers.
• Physical therapy – Physiotherapy in physical therapy treatment is a low-risk and non-invasive therapy for chronic sciatica pain condition that has given impressive results so far. Electrotherapy machines are easily available, very simple to use and anyone can relief sciatica nerve pain at home on their own, as and when the need arises.
• Yoga and stretching exercises – Both are extremely helpful in reducing stiffness, inflammation and pain in a big way since they will help you strengthen your back and relax the stiff areas very well.
• Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – A face-to-face session with a therapist can prove beneficial in controlling and changing self-defeating behaviors regarding sciatica pain and help you in managing it very well.
• Complete bed rest for acute sciatica – Stay completely off the feet for several weeks to avoid further complications
• Chiropractic Adjustment – A non-surgical spinal adjustment and manual manipulation performed by appropriately trained health professionals, such as chiropractic and osteopathic physicians, focused on providing better spinal column alignment.
Sciatic nerve pain needs timely treatment and can be prevented by taking proper care and some safety measures like staying fit, taking rest, avoiding long hours standing or sitting, exercise, etc. After all, prevention is better than cure.