What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition characterized by pain caused by compression of the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back through the back of the two legs to the lower limb.

Sciatic nerve pain is mostly noticeable on the buttock and the lower limbs.

Sciatica Symptoms
Sciatica Symptoms

One of the most common symptoms of sciatica is pain which spreads to the buttock area accompanied by numbness and tingling sensations. The pain gets worse when you sit in one position for long period of time.

When you step on the floor, you feel a pricking sensation that mimics stepping on pins.

The following may cause sciatica:

  1. herniated discs- A wear or tear on the intervertebra disks that separate successive vertebra bones.
  2. spinal stenosis. This is narrowing of the spinal canal. This can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  3. piriformis syndrome
  4. spondylolisthesis- This is slippage of a vertebra bone thus putting pressure on nerves that pass through it.

Other unpreventable conditions that may cause sciatica:

  1. Accidentall fall.
  2. Back straining. This is common in pregnant women.
  3. Degenerative disc diseases.

Symptoms of sciatica

Sciatica presents sets of symptoms that can easily pin point the cause considering the localization of the symptoms to one segment of the body.

The following are sciatica symptoms:

  1. Sciatic nerve pain. This is characterized by pain localized to one or both segments of the lower limb depending on the region where the sciatic nerve is compressed.

Chronic pain is a sign of complications which often requires emergency medical response as patients may be immobilized without notice. This may be accompanied by other conditions, for instance, chronic muscle weakness (e.g. ‘drop foot’)

  1. ‘Pin and needle’ experience. This happens when you put your bare feet on the floor, you feel a kind of tingling and pricking sensation accompanied with spreading burning sensation in the lower limbs.
  2. Shooting pain which makes standing upright difficult.

In the management of sciatica symptoms, the underlying causes of nerve compression has to be dealt with for quick recovery. one of the ways sciatica can be diagnosed is through straight leg test which helps to diagnose the region where the problem is from. With this test, if a patient passively flexed his or her legĀ  by 30 and 70 degrees, and experience pain within the lower limb area, then its a positive test, however this may not be regarded as conclusive as other tests might be required such as Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, computerized tomography (CT) scans.

If the cause of sciatica is lumbar disc herniation , most of such cases resolve over few weeks to months, depending on the degree of tear or wear, though initially treatment should be conservative within the first 6-8 weeks.

Surgery can be used to correct disc herniation, while not enough, conservative care is necessary to alleviate sciatica symptoms to a larger degree.

Other ways sciatica pain can be treated involve the following:

  1. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs such aa naproxen and ibuprofen can be administered.
  2. Aerobic exercises that improves sciatica pain such as stretching to relax muscles.
  3. Epidurals and spinal injection of cortisone may relieve sciatica pain to a large extent.
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