Many people ignore their lower back pain considering it a regular discomfort. But that same chronic back pain can be sciatica- back pain caused by a disturbance of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs down from the lower back to the back of each leg. Pressure or injury to the sciatic nerve can cause a stinging pain in lower back spreading to the hip, buttocks, and legs.
The most common symptom of sciatica is the lower back pain that spreads down to one of the legs. Though the pain usually occurs in one leg, in severe cases it may affect the other leg too. Sciatica also causes numbness and tingling feeling in the painful leg in some cases. Many people ignore symptoms of sciatic as regular lower back pain. This, however, can be differentiated by the kind of pain that penetrates through the leg into the foot. Generally people in the age group 30-50 suffer from sciatica. Pregnant women may also develop this pain owing to the pressure on the sciatic nerve by the growing fetus.
Sciatica is generally caused by the following factors:
· Herniated disk: The disk in the spinal cord acts as a cushion to absorb the pressure on the spine. As a person ages, the disk becomes weaker with regular wear and tear. In such a case, the disk slips and pushes through the sciatic nerve leading to sciatica.
· Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal may also cause sciatica as it gives pressure to the sciatic nerve. This situation, however, occurs mostly in people aged above 60 years.
· Piriformis Syndrome: Piriformis is a muscle located inside the buttocks and connects the spine to the upper thigh bone. When spasms occur in the piriformis muscle, sciatica occurs. This is because the piriformis muscle is located exactly on the sciatic nerve.
· Sacroiliitis: This is an inflammation of sacroiliac joints located in the pelvis. This inflammation may lead to sciatica with pain in the buttocks, lower back and down the legs.
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One should consult a doctor if there is severe pain in the lower back enough to disrupt normal activities. The doctor will evaluate through a check-up and ask you to walk, squat or raise the legs to examine the pain. Muscle tests, MRI and other imaging tests also help to detect sciatica.
A heating pad or an ice pack can be helpful to relieve the persistent sciatica pain. The packs should be applied for around 20 minutes after an interval of every two hours. Additionally, over the counter medicines and pain relievers also help to reduce pain and give temporary relief. However, it is absolutely necessary to visit the doctor in cases of extreme pain and discomfort.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are useful to cure sciatica. The doctor may also give a steroid injection to reduce the inflammation of the lower back. In addition to this, regular exercises and physiotherapy sessions also help in relieving sciatica pain. The physiotherapist will recommend exercises meant especially for the affected area as just any exercise may cause harm to the body and alleviate pain. In severe cases like a herniated disk, the patient may be recommended surgery. The surgery will include removing a part of the herniated disk to reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Lower back pain should never be ignored as a regular pain of the body. A pain radiating from the lower back to the foot accompanied by numbness and tingling sensation is surely a sign of sciatica. It is best then to rush to the doctor to cure sciatica and relieve the body of the discomforts of it!
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