Sciatica is a term, used to describe irritation of the largest nerve in the human’s body called sciatic nerve. It runs from the lower part of the spine down to the thighs, buttocks and legs, controlling sensations in these regions.
Sciatica is not a disease but it’s a symptoms of certain health problems that involve sciatic nerve.
In the majority of cases, sciatic nerve becomes irritated, when discs located between the vertebrae rupture.
Discs are cushions designed to absorb shock during movements, to improve mobility and to prevent deterioration of the bones. They contain fibrous outer layer and internal jelly like substance called nucleus pulposus. If fibrous core ruptures, soft material from the center protrudes and pinches the nerves.
Another possible cause is extreme narrowing of the spinal canal that leads to compression of the nerve roots.
With aging, discs between the vertebrae may degenerate and press on the nerves, causing sciatica.
Sometimes one vertebral bone may slip forward the lower one and trigger sciatic-like pain.
Most people who experience sciatica complain of deep sharp pain that begins on the one side of the lower back and spreads down to the leg. Pain worsens after standing or sitting for a long time. Unpleasant sensations become more intensive when person starts to laugh, cough or has bowel movements.
It is often accompanied by numbness and tingling, especially when a person moves the leg.
If your job requires lifting weights or stand in one position for a long time, be aware that you may be in high-risk group for developing sciatica.
For acute cases, when sciatic pain lasts several days, self-care remedies like stretching, applying cold packs to affected area and taking over-the-counter painkillers (ibuprofen and naproxen) may help get rid of such an annoying condition effectively. But remember that pain relievers are not so safe as it seems. If consumed for a long time, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines may cause developing peptic ulcers and internal bleeding.
After two or three days putting heat pads on the painful regions may appear a perfect option to ease sciatica symptoms.
In some situations, healthcare specialist may advise getting corticosteroid injection into the region around affected nerve root. Although it usually provides relief, this method has strong limitations because of possible serious side effects.
In severe cases, when sciatica progresses or a person loses bowel and bladder control, surgery may be the only efficient treatment. Specialist can remove a part of bulged disc that squeezes the nerve, or widen the spinal canal in order to reduce pressure.
Some patients notice that alternative methods like acupuncture and chiropractic care help them feel really better and decrease painful sensations related to sciatica.