Sciatica is a type of back pain in which pain is felt in the lower back radiating to buttocks and one or both legs. It is caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve. The pain of sciatica may be mild to moderate or severe in intensity but it is self-limiting most of the time. There are several myths about the pain of sciatica in our society which have nothing to do with reality. Here we’ll discuss some of these myths.
Myth 1 – Sciatica is a Diagnosis
People generally consider that sciatica is a final diagnosis but in fact, it is only a symptom telling you that something is hurting the sciatic nerve root in your lower back region. It is mandatory to know the source of sciatic nerve compression. It may be a herniated disc, bony spur or any other cause.
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 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 and it is important to diagnose these conditions early.
Myth 3 – Something Specific Triggers Sciatica
People often consider that if they lift a heavyweight, travel for a prolonged period of time or help somebody move, they would 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 and it is prone to herniate by any small triggering factor and is not significantly caused by any particular event.
According to a study, almost 75-80% of Americans suffer from sciatica or back pain at least on one occasion in their life so it can be said that it is the part of normal life. According to a study published in 2017, the people who perform heavy physical work, are more prone to have sciatica. The jobs which have high-risk factor are heavy weight lifting work, machine, metal, laboring, and other industrial work. Among the females, 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. It is proven from researches that most patients recover early and perform better if they avoid unwanted extra rest and remain physically active. Various researchers have discovered that there is no benefit to stick yourself to bed as compared to stay active for the patients suffering from sciatica.
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 pain of sciatica but a meta-analysis and systemic review reported in 2012 did not find any evidence of the effectiveness of the 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 researches, most of the cases of sciatica are self-limiting and resolve within the 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 the surgery which is wrong. 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.
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 done to correct their 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 incidence and rate of recurrence of lower back pain can be reduced significantly by staying active and using appropriate and suitable form during activities. According to Spinner, strengthening exercises for abdomen and back help in building a strong core which is very helpful in preventing the recurrence rate of sciatica. According to Ottone, sciatica can be avoided by adopting good posture, maintaining normal body weight, reducing 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 is the one and only problem regarding sciatic nerve compression. Sciatica may have complications. In severe cases, it can lead to the loss of ability to control one’s bladder and bowel leading to awkward situations.
Myth 10 – The Proper Diagnosis of Sciatica is Quite Expensive
Some persons suffering from leg pain avoid going to physician thinking that the diagnosis modalities of this pain are quite expensive which is not true thinking. It can be diagnosed by a doctor by just taking history and performing a thorough physical examination but sometimes doctor needs radiological investigations which are not too much 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 because the 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 or pinched or irritated by any surrounding structure. Typically it happens by a bulging or herniated disc between the adjacent vertebrae in the lower segment of the vertebral column. There may also be some other causes like bony spurs, bony outgrowth, spinal stenosis or spinal tumour, etc.
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