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Sciatica pain – symptoms, causes and treatment
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Sciatica pain – symptoms, causes and treatment

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Sciatica pain is usually caused by compression or irritation of one of the spinal nerve roots. The condition can be effectively managed with non-surgical treatments. …

Sciatica pain is usually caused by compression or irritation of one of the spinal nerve roots. The condition can be effectively managed with non-surgical treatments.

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  • 1. Sciatica Pain – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Sciatica pain is usually caused by compression or irritation of one of the spinal nerve roots. The condition can be effectively managed with non-surgical treatments. Severe lower back pain that travels down the back of the thigh and extends down below the knee is typical of the medical condition known as sciatica. This pain occurs due to irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve roots. This is one of the longest nerves in the body, starting from the back of pelvis through buttocks and all the way down both legs. The pain due to this condition can range from mild to very painful. Some of the common symptoms of this condition include • Pain in the buttock or leg • Weakness, numbness in the leg • Shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up • Difficulty moving the leg or foot • Burning or tingling down the leg
  • 2. What causes sciatica? Normally, the condition is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. One of the other main causes of this nerve disorder is a herniated or slipped disc. Normally, the intervertebral discs in the spine act as shock absorbers to protect your spine and keep it flexible. If the disc weakens (either due to normal wear and tear or due to a spine injury), some of the contents of the disc may seep out and get pressed against the nerve root. Some of the other causes of this condition include • Spondylolisthesis • Spinal tumors • Piriformis syndrome • Lumbar spinal stenosis • Degenerative disc disease • Trauma • Sciatic nerve tumor or injury Who is at Risk? The condition can occur as a result of the general wear and tear of aging or any activity that places sudden pressure on
  • 3. the disks that cushion the vertebrae of the lower spine. Changes in the spine caused by arthritis also increase the risk for sciatica in older adults. The condition can affect people who lead a sedentary lifestyle or those who engage in jobs involving frequent twisting, bending and heavy weight lifting. A study on a sample of workers in Finland which was published in Spine Journal (2002) reported that walking can cause the onset of sciatica symptoms and that jogging is associated with a continuation of symptoms. Pregnant women and people with diabetes are also at risk of nerve damage. Diagnosing the condition The diagnosis of this chronic nerve condition focuses on identifying the cause and location of the patient’s pain. As part of the consultation, the physician will evaluate the complete medical history of the patient. Muscle tests may be conducted to test your strength and reflexes. Additional tests like X-rays, MRI for herniated discs, CT scan, and myelogram would be recommended if the pain lasts longer than 4 weeks. Effective Non-surgical Treatment The good news is that established health care centers offer effective non-surgical types of treatment for sciatica. These treatment programs are developed and managed by a team of specialists comprising pain management
  • 4. physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists and neurologists, and would include the following: • Physical therapy – This is an ideal option for effectively managing pain related to the condition and to restore function and mobility. Various therapeutic exercises are recommended to strengthen and improve the flexibility of muscles and joints. Treatment programs would also include ultrasound, massage and myofascial release, traction and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). • Epidural steroid injections – Injections of corticosteroids (commonly called steroids) can reduce inflammation. The injection is directly administered in the epidural space which is inside the outer membrane covering the spine. • Exercise – Exercises can help to improve a patient’s strength, mobility and range of motion. These generally include gentle strengthening, stretching, aerobic and isometric exercises. • Spinal decompression therapy – This FDA-approved therapy involves the decompression of the discs in the spine which creates a vacuum within the spinal discs and removes the extra pressure on the affected nerves and spine.
  • 5. • Massage therapy – Deep pressure application or gentle manipulation can help to increase blood circulation and relax tight muscles. It provides relief from acute pain and reduces inflammation. • Oral medications - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or oral steroids reduce pain and inflammation. Though sciatica nerve pain is a complicated condition, it can be managed and resolved and further recurrences prevented with proper treatment. On the other hand, if this chronic nerve disorder if left untreated, it could lead to severe complications like partial immobility of the leg, altered sensation of the leg, and other functional disabilities such as limitations in walking, sitting and standing.