Sciatica Overview and Symptoms
Sciatica causes pain that extends along the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and continues down the back of each leg. Sciatic pain usually affects only one side of the body.
Common symptoms of sciatic pain that patients most often complain about are pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the leg. Other patients experience symptoms that range from a mild ache to a sharp needle type of pain. The sciatic pain can also feel like a burning sensation or electric shock.
Causes of Sciatic Pain
Sciatica occurs when there is pressure or injury to the sciatic nerve. The nerve can become pinched by a herniated disk or a bone spur. A tumor growing in the lower back can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve causing discomfort.
Pelvic injury, a slipped disk and the narrowing of muscles in the buttocks are issues that are associated with patients experiencing sciatic pain. Pregnancy in women can also cause sciatica to develop as the child grows and moves in the womb.
Being overweight, sleeping on a soft mattress, not exercising regularly or wearing high heels for long periods of time can aggravate sciatic pain in a patient.
There are times when sciatica will go away on its own and other times when medical treatments are necessary.
At home treatments include applying hot and cold therapy. Cold therapy should be used for the first 48 hours to reduce any inflammation. Hot therapy can be introduced after that to help the muscles in the area to relax. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help with the sciatic pain. For the first couple of days, activity should be limited and anything strenuous should be discontinued.
If the pain becomes unbearable or it lasts more that five days, seek medical attention. A doctor will most likely prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxers and physical therapy. A physical therapist will design an exercise program to help correct posture, strengthen back muscles and improve flexibility. Corticosteroid injections can also help reduce pain by suppressing inflammation around the irritated nerve. In most severe sciatic pain cases, surgery will be required.