Sciatica Symptoms, Causes and How To Alleviate Sciatica Pain
The pain associated with sciatica can be severe. Find out what the symptoms are and how to help soothe them with osteopathy.
The sciatic nerve, the longest and widest single never in the human body, is a large nerve that begins in the lower back, runs down through the buttocks into the thigh and calf and all the way to the foot. Stemming from spinal nerves L4 through S3, it supplies almost whole of the skin of the leg, back thigh muscles, the leg and the foot.
Sciatica is nerve pain caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve and radiates along the nerve’s path. It typically affects only one side of the body. Most commonly, this happens when part of the nerve is compressed by a herniated disc or bone spur on the spine causing inflammation, pain, possibly tingling, numbness or weakness. The pain associated with sciatica can be severe but most cases can be treated with just conservative treatments such as osteopathy for a few weeks. Sciatica, however, is not a medical symptom in itself; rather, it is a symptom of underlying medical condition.
What are the symptoms of ‘Sciatica’?
Pain caused by sciatica may vary from irritating and infrequent to constant and excruciating, even incapacitating and usually follows a path from the lower back, to the buttock and the back of the thigh and calf. Sciatica is often characterized by either of the following symptoms:
- One side of the buttock or leg suffers from constant pain
- Pain worsens when sitting
- Burning or tingling sensation down the leg
- Difficulty in moving the leg or the foot due to weakness or numbness
- Difficulty in standing up or walking due to a sharp pain
When to seek help from an osteopath or doctor?
Given time and patience, sciatica, if it is mild, usually goes away. However, if pain lasts longer than one week, is severe or becomes worse progressively and none of the self-care measures can help, immediate medical care should be sought. It is imperative to seek help immediately if the following symptoms are being experienced:
- Sudden, severe pain in the lower back or leg or if there is severe numbness or weakness in the leg
- Violent injury such as a traffic accident or a terrible fall precedes the pain
- There is trouble controlling bowels and bladder
Causes of Sciatica
When a sciatic nerve becomes pinched by a herniated disc in the spine or if there is bone overgrowth on the vertebrae, Sciatica can occur. Sometimes, the compression is caused by a tumor and sometimes, diseases like diabetes.
A herniated disc is when there is leakage of the soft inner core of the disc (nucleus pulposus). The leakage passes through the fibrous outer layers of the disc and irritates the adjoining nerve root. A herniated disc is often referred to as slip disc (although this is a misnomer – nothing has ‘slipped’) or ruptured disc. A disc can also bulge or protrude, also causing a pinched nerve.
What can be done at home?
Prevention is the best treatment of sciatica. Low back trauma injuries should be avoided by engaging in proper posture when lifting heavy objects, sitting down for prolonged periods, standing up from sitting and picking up something from the floor. Conditioning exercises such as yoga and pilates are also good options to prevent sciatica because they not only strengthen the lower back but they also teach and promote proper posture.
- Avoid bending, lifting, or sitting in a low, soft chair for long periods.
- Over the counter medicines such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen can be taken to ease the pain but speak to a pharmacist before you take any medication.
- A cold pack may also help in easing the pain. Without cold packs, a large bag of frozen peas can be used.
- Lie on a firm surface on your back with a pillow under the knees. Lying on your side with a pillow between the knees to keep the back straight is also an option.
If your symptoms keep on persisting then osteopathy could be a great option for you. Please get in touch to consult with one of our expert osteopaths today and find our how podiatry and osteopathy may help with your sciatica pain: