Sciatica affects more than three million Americans each year. What is it? Keep reading to learn more.
What is it and what should I look for?
Sciatica, also known as sciatic neuritis, is defined as “pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, running down one or both legs from the lower back” (Source: Mayo Clinic). The sciatic nerve is the nerve with the largest stretching diameter in our bodies.
What are the symptoms?
Pain can range from mild to extremely sharp. You will typically feel pain when sitting for too long or if you have a pre-existing injury. For example, the most common injuries that cause sciatica are a bulging or herniated disc, lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, trauma, piriformis syndrome, and spinal tumors. Other symptoms can include burning sensations, foot numbness, limping and muscle weakness.
What causes it?
Sciatica is caused by a herniated disk or bone spur in the spine that puts pressure on the nerves. Typically, the pain only affects one side of the body.
How is it treated?
Common treatments consist of physical therapy and/or medication. People have also found that daily treatments of ice packs can be beneficial. Experts from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggest stretching can help flexibility and helps improve physical functions. Surgical treatments include laminotomy with discectomy and can be performed under local, spinal or general anesthesia.
How can I prevent sciatica?
To prevent sciatica, experts from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggest that you exercise regularly, maintain a strong posture and pay attention to smart body mechanics. Keeping your core strong, as well as concentrating on having correct posture can help protect your back. When lifting heavy objects or standing for a long period of time, try to rest or lean on a solid object nearby. This will help lower the impact on your back and your risk of injury.