Close to 3 million people in the United States are living with the common and often painful condition of sciatica. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or slipped disc that causes pressure on the nerve root. Discs are made of cartilage, which is a strong and resilient material; the cartilage acts as a cushion between each vertebra and allows the spine to be flexible. A herniated disc occurs when a disc is pushed out of place, becomes inflamed and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. The pain can range from mild (feels like a bad leg cramp) to severe and often becomes a debilitating intruder in your day to day life.

Other conditions that cause sciatica could be: Piriformis Syndrome (when the piriformis muscle in the buttocks spasms), Spinal Stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal with pressure on the nerves), or Spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra so that it is out of line with the one above or below it).

The main symptom of sciatica is pain that originates in the spine and radiates down the back of the leg. In some cases, the pain may extend the entire length of the hamstrings to the toes.

Common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • lower back pain
  • hip pain
  • pain in the back, rear or leg that is worse when sitting
  • burning or tingling down the leg (numbness or pins and needles)
  • weakness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • a constant pain/throbbing on one side of the buttocks
  • a shooting pain that makes it hard to stand up or walk
  • pain that can worsen when you sit, sneeze or cough.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in a human body and it typically affects only one side. To diagnose the cause of sciatica, you may need to have some imaging tests: X-Ray, CAT Scan or MRI.

There are many ways to relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve and often one can reduce or avoid taking medications and even sleep more comfortably. Specific treatment and exercises can provide comfort and relief for people experiencing a “sciatic flare-up”: sleeping platforms, therapeutic icing, massage (promoting blood circulation)stretching (encouraging tight muscles to loosen up) , physical therapy (loosening tense muscles, encouraging blood flow-promoting fuller range of motion) and relaxation. The healthcare provider may recommend more progressive actions such as spinal decompression, epidural injections, trigger point injections, and/or TENS unit therapies.

Risk factors for Sciatic Nerve Pain:

  • Age: 30-40 year olds have a higher risk of developing sciatica
  • Profession: Jobs that require heavy lifting for long periods
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: People who sit for longer periods are more likely to develop sciatica compared to active people
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to prevent sciatica, as well as relieve the pain. One can take the proper steps to protect your body and reduce your risk.

-Exclusive Nerve & Disc CentersĀ®