What is sciatica?
Pain resulting from the sciatic nerve becoming compressed is commonly referred to as sciatica. The sciatic nerve is one of the nerve roots that extends from the spinal cord in the lower back and branches down the back of each leg.
People who suffer from this issue tend to initially develop sciatica when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated due to spinal compression.
What causes a sciatica flare-up?
Spinal compression is one of the leading causes for the occurrence of sciatic nerve pain. Compression of the nerve roots in itself can be caused by issues such as herniated discs, bone spurs, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), cauda equina syndrome, and other factors.
When the nerve become compressed, essentially, other structures such as bone spurs place pressure on the nerve, irritating it, leading to a flare up.
Bone spurs, spinal stenosis, as well as herniated and slipped disc are characterised by getting into the space where the sciatic nerve typically resides, allowing less space for the nerve itself, with a high chance to irritate it and produce symptoms.
However, in other cases, sciatica may be caused by issues that are more temporary in nature, such as sitting down for long periods of time without taking a break, maintaining a poor posture for long enough to cause the sciatic nerve to fire up, as well as issues with the back muscles, such as strains, sprains or injuries.
Because these factors are temporary in nature, when they tend to go away, so does sciatica. In turn, when these issues occur again, you may find that your sciatic nerve if affected again.
Signs and symptoms of sciatica
The main common symptom of sciatica is pain in the lower back. It can occur by itself, or it can be accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Pain that extends down from the lower back to the leg or foot
- Pain that radiates to other parts of the body
- Pins and needles (numbness) in the back or leg
- Weakness in the back, legs, or feet
- In more severe cases, where there is nerve damage, loss of bowel or bladder control may occur
How to treat sciatica
Sciatic pain may get better withing a matter of a few weeks. However, that may not be the case for everyone. In this case, it may be necessary to seek medical advice, to be offered a diagnosis along with a treatment plan. Treatments for sciatica include:
- Physical therapy, to re-mobilise the spine and free the sciatic nerve that has become trapped
- Anti-inflammatory medication to provide temporary pain relief
- Steroid injections to lessen sciatic pain
- Engaging in exercise to help strengthen the back muscles and provide additional support to your spine
- Using a spinal decompression device, such as the Backrack, to speed up recovery
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