Sciatica is a type of back pain that is felt in the lower spine radiating to the buttocks and one or both legs. Sciatica occurs due to compression of the sciatic nerve root.
Sciatica pain may be mild, moderate, or severe in intensity. However, it is self-limiting most of the time. There are several common myths about sciatic nerve pain in our society which have nothing to do with reality. Here we’ll discuss some of these myths and present a few sciatica facts vs fiction points.
Myth 1 – Sciatica is a Diagnosis
People generally consider that sciatica is a final diagnosis. In fact, it is only a symptom telling you that something is hurting the sciatic nerve root. It is mandatory to know the source of sciatic nerve compression, which may be due to a herniated disc, bony spur, lumbar spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, or any other cause. In more severe cases, nerve damage may be to blame for sciatica symptoms.
Myth 2 – All Leg Pains are Sciatica
It is common to hear from people suffering from any kind of leg pain that they have sciatica. It is not entirely true. There may be many other causes of leg pain other than sciatica. Varicose veins and deep venous thrombosis are two important clinical conditions which cause severe leg pain. That’s why it is important to diagnose these conditions early.
Myth 3 – Something Specific Triggers Sciatica
People often consider that if they lift a heavy object, travel for a prolonged period of time or help somebody move, they will suffer from this pain. In reality, any specific event has nothing to do with the occurrence of this pain.
Rather, most of the time, the intervertebral disc has a minor defect that can have an impact on the sciatic nerve. It is also prone to herniate by any small triggering factor and is not significantly caused by any particular event. That is not to say that there aren’t certain correlations associated with sciatica.
According to a study, almost 75-80% of Americans suffer from sciatica or back pain at least on one occasion in their life.
According to a study published in 2017, people who perform heavy physical work are more prone to have sciatica. The jobs which have high-risk factor are those that involve heavy weightlifting, operating machines, manual labour jobs, and other industrial work. Among women, the risk was elevated among industrial workers, sales workers, and nurses.
Myth 4 – The Patient should stay in Bed
It is not a good concept that if you are suffering from sciatica, you should stay in bed and avoid physical activities. But a long period of rest and inactivity is not necessarily beneficial. It is proven from research that most patients recover early and perform better if they remain physically active and avoid unwanted extra bed rest.
Various researchers have discovered that there is no benefit to stick yourself to bed, as compared to staying active.
Although physiotherapy can help with spine mobility, any kind of light activity can be beneficial for your lower back in this case.
Myth 5 – Medication is the Best Mean to Relieve from Sciatica
It is of common sense to think that taking anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers can relieve the sciatic pain, including chronic sciatica. A meta-analysis and systemic review reported in 2012 did not find any evidence of the effectiveness of drugs including opioid analgesics, corticosteroids, antidepressants, and NSAIDs. But it is also a fact that treatment for a short time with acetaminophen and certain anti-inflammatory drugs is relieving for some patients.
Myth 6 – Surgical Intervention is the only Way to Treat Sciatica
According to research, most of the cases of sciatica are self-limiting and resolve within a time period of almost six to seven weeks and do not require surgical intervention. But it is also common thinking that the definite treatment of sciatica is surgery, which is not entirely true.
Some other treatment options are also available like epidural injections and physical therapy. Surgery is required only in the few cases which are resistant to medical treatment, or in the case of more serious conditions, such as spinal tumours.
Myth 7 – Sometimes Nothing Helps in this Pain
It is often heard by the disappointed patients that there is no treatment, or no remedy can be applied to correct their sciatic symptoms. Fortunately, it is evident from many scientific studies that most of the symptoms improve with the passage of time. And if required, surgery is also very successful.
Myth 8 – There is no Prevention to Sciatica
The truth is that sciatica can be prevented. The incidence and rate of recurrence of lower back pain can be reduced significantly by staying active and using appropriate and suitable form during activities.
Strengthening exercises for the abdomen and back can help in building a strong core. This is very helpful in preventing the recurrence rate of sciatica.
Sciatica can also be avoided by adopting good posture, maintaining normal body weight, reducing time spent sitting, adopting good vertebral column alignment and maintaining good flexibility and strength of hamstring muscles.
Myth 9 – Pain is the Sole Problem Regarding Sciatica
It is not a true concept that pain, and specifically radicular pain, is the one and only problem regarding sciatic nerve compression. True sciatica may have complications. In severe cases, it can lead to the loss of ability to control one’s bladder or bowels.
Myth 10 – The Proper Diagnosis of Sciatica is Quite Expensive
Some persons suffering from leg pain avoid going to their physician, thinking that the diagnosis modalities of this pain are quite expensive, which is not helpful for the patient. It can sometimes be diagnosed by a doctor by just taking history and performing a thorough physical examination. However, sometimes the doctor needs radiological investigations which are not necessarily too expensive.
Myth 11 – Self Treating is Beneficial
Patients suffering from sciatica should not try to treat their condition by themselves without consulting a health care provider. Making the right diagnosis about the root cause of sciatica is the first step towards its relief.
Precautions, lifestyle modifications, and treatment options are different about every cause of this pain. A professional health care provider has the ability to detect any serious problem at an early stage and take actions to avoid long-lasting injury or damage.
Myth 12 – We do not know the Root Cause
The pain of sciatica takes place when the sciatic nerve gets compressed, pinched, or irritated by any surrounding structure. Typically, it is caused by a bulging or herniated disk between the adjacent vertebrae in the lower segment of the vertebral column.
If left untreated for too long, these can cause permanent nerve damage, which can cause more issues in the long term. There may also be some other causes like bony spurs, bony outgrowth, spinal stenosis or spinal tumour, etc.
Despite all these myths, sciatica is a real problem that causes pain to countless people. But how can it be treated? One of the best ways to ensure that the sciatic nerve is not trapped.
Oftentimes, it becomes compressed due to various reasons (some of which are mentioned above), and that is what leads to pain. To relieve all the resulting symptoms and prevent them from returning, you can decompress your back with the help of Backrack patented technology.