What is sciatica?

Sciatica is back pain that radiates down to the leg. It is usually triggered by a number of factors although a prolapsed or slipped disc is the most common cause.

Symptoms

The symptoms usually start with acute low back pain but not in all cases which radiates down into the buttocks, rear of the thigh and even lower into the legs. Sciatica can be characterized as sharp pain accompanied by tingling, numbness or pins and needles. It is often instigated by a minor movement such as bending over to pick up objects and often aggravated by sitting, sneezing or coughing.

The pain is often relieved by lying down on one side. There is tenderness and muscle spasm in the lower part of the back with trigger points. In addition, there is also tenderness in the buttock muscles. The doctor will perform the straight leg raise test to help diagnose sciatic pain.

Causes

Sciatica

The symptoms usually start with acute low back pain but not in all cases which radiates down into the buttocks, rear of the thigh and even lower into the legs.

Sciatica is medically known as acute nerve root compression in which pressure on the sciatic nerve causes symptoms such as pins and needles sensation, numbness and pain. The exact cause of pressure can be a herniated disc, disc degeneration as well as a prolapsed disc or muscle tension.

In rare cases, the causes of sciatica include bony growths called stenosis, tumors or spinal infections.

Treatment

The treatment of sciatica actually depends on the exact cause of the injury and severity of the symptoms. In severe cases that are caused by a slipped or prolapsed disc, surgery is often required but conservative treatment options are tried first.

Always remember that rest is vital, particularly bed rest in a position that is comfortable. The doctor will prescribe NSAIDs such as ibuprofen as long as the individual does not have asthma.

The application of heat therapy or a hot bath can help relieve muscle spasm but cold is the main priority if pain is acute or inflammation is present. It is also recommended to use a heat retainer or back brace to provide support during the early stages. To learn to recognize and manage the symptoms of sciatica, sign up for a first aid course with a credible provider near you.

A sports injury specialist or doctor will advise extension exercises as soon as the pain allows. Stretching or traction of the spine might be indicated and the use of an inversion table is usually recommended to help reduce the symptoms.

As for less severe cases as well as those triggered by piriformis syndrome, minimal rest is required. It is important to rest from activities that instigate the condition. Movement is vital if possible. The individual can gently stretch the buttock and hamstring muscles. Heat therapy can also be used to help ease the muscle spasms. In addition, sports massage typically works particularly for piriformis syndrome.

When to consult a doctor

When a doctor is consulted, the cause of sciatica is determined. Anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants are prescribed if needed. Sports massage can be used to relax the tight muscles and mobilization techniques must be done gently to the spine. In some cases, electrical stimulation via TENS can be done.

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