Sciatica is a type of pain that occurs on one side of the lower body. The pain is felt in the lower part of the back radiating to the buttocks and one or sometimes both legs. Depending on the site of sciatic nerve involvement, pain may also be felt in the foot or toes. In some patients, the pain of sciatica is very severe and irritating type. In some cases, it might be infrequent but may become worse.
In most of the cases, sciatica pain is not permanent. It comes and goes because it is caused by the irritation of the root of the nerve in the lower lumbar or lumbosacral region of the spinal column. Sometimes, the amount of nerve compression or irritation is aggravated due to any posture disorder, prolonged sitting or standing, muscle spasm, any injury to back muscles or any other reason and thus, the severe pain is felt. When the underlying cause is settled, pain is gone away. But the pain may be continuous in some patients depending upon the underlying cause.
There may be many causes of sciatica. Some of the important ones are described below:
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
It is a condition in which the spinal canal gets narrowed down in the lower region of the back. It is a common cause of compression of the sciatic nerve leading to sciatica pain. Pain due to this cause is continuous in most cases.
Degenerative Disc Disease
It is a condition in which intervertebral discs are degenerated gradually due to age-related wear and tear changes, arthritis, dietary deficiency or any other cause. Intervertebral discs provide the cushioning effect. When the cushion effect is lost in the lower lumbar region, the sciatic nerve is compressed between two vertebrae leading to severe sciatica pain.
It is a condition in which one vertebral bone slips forward over the other vertebral bone. This cause the compression or irritation of the root of sciatic nerve and pain is felt in the region of distribution of the nerve.
When lower back muscles have a spasm, sciatica pain comes. When spasm is settled down, pain is gone away. Muscle spasm of the lower back region is an important cause of intermittent sciatica pain.
Wearing High Heels
The females who frequently wear high heels are more prone to develop sciatica pain due to disc slippage, back muscles inflammation or spasm. Usually, it happens that sciatica pain comes with the wearing of high heels and goes away a few days after putting off the high heeled shoes.
Sleeping on a Hard or Soft Mattress
If you sleep on a mattress which is too hard or too soft, it may cause irritation to your sciatic nerve leading to sciatica pain. So always choose a mattress which is firm and of good quality.
Any infection to the vertebral column also may cause sciatica pain. Pain is usually gone away when the infection is cured completely.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Some of the important symptoms of sciatica pain are following:
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the saddle area or leg that is aggravated by sitting
- Pain in the buttocks
- Burning or tingling sensations in the leg
- Weakness or numbness in the leg or foot
- Difficulty in moving the legs or foot
- Pain is felt all the time on one side of the rear
- Sometimes shooting pain is felt which makes the movement difficult.
Risk Factors for Sciatica
Some of the risk factors are:
- Advancing age
- Jobs that heavy weight lifting or prolonged periods of continuous sitting
- People who are habitual of a sedentary lifestyle
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You can prevent sciatic nerve pain through certain lifestyle modifications. These are some tips you can follow to prevent future sciatica episodes:
- Take regular exercise to make your back muscles stronger.
- Always adopt a good posture while sitting in a chair in front of a computer, driving, walking , weight lifting and other routine activities.
- Do not bend it back to lift heavy weights. Instead, adopt a squatting position to pick the objects up.
- Wear comfortable shoes which are not too tight or too loose to your feet.
- Maintain your weight within the normal limit of BMI. Overweight and diabetes are risk factors for sciatica pain.
- Quit smoking. Because smoking compromises the blood supply to the intervertebral discs and the risk of disc degeneration is increased.