Understanding Sciatica and its causes

Sciatica is pain in your lower extremities causes by the irritation of the sciatic nerve which arises from the lumbar spinal cord and extends toward the lower limbs. This pain is normally felt from the lower back to the back of the thighs and can extend below the knees. Sciatica typically affects only one side of the body.

The most common cause of sciatica is a lumbar disc herniation which presses directly on the sciatic nerve. This inflammation is what gives rise to the sciatica pain. The irritation of nerves caused by an abnormal intervertebral disc is known as radiculopathy. Besides a herniated disc, other causes include nerve irritation caused by adjacent bone, muscle, tumours, infections, internal bleeding, injury, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis and caudaequina syndrome. Sciatica can also arise during pregnancy. Risk factors that can make you more prone to sciatica are age, obesity, diabetes and your occupation.

What are the symptoms of Sciatica?

The defining aspect of sciatica is the pain that radiates from the lumbar spine to the buttocks and down to the back of the legs. This pain or discomfort can be felt almost anywhere along the sciatic nerve’s pathway. The pain can range from a mild ache to an excruciating pain or burning sensation. It may sometimes feel like an electric shock or jolt. Prolonged sitting or standing can aggravate symptoms.

How is Sciatica treated?

A physical exam and imaging tests will be conducted to confirm the cause of your sciatica pain. It is possible to alleviate the symptoms of sciatica through regular exercises and maintaining proper posture. If these self-care techniques do not work, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants or steroid injections. If the sciatica is unbearable and is causing significant numbness, weakness, pain or loss of bladder and bowel control, surgery is often the best treatment option. The surgeon will remove the bone spur or herniated disc that is affecting the sciatic nerve.

Talk to your doctor today for more information on sciatica and how it can be treated.

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