Sciatica: What You Need to Know
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your lower back down your buttocks and through your legs. When this nerve is compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in your lower back and legs. This condition is known as sciatica.
What causes sciatica?
There are many things that can cause sciatica, including:
- Herniated disk: A herniated disk is a condition in which the cushioning discs between your vertebrae bulge out and put pressure on the nerves in your lower back.
- Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can put pressure on the nerves in your lower back.
- Piriformis syndrome: Piriformis syndrome is a condition in which the piriformis muscle, which sits in your buttocks, compresses the sciatic nerve.
- Arthritis: Arthritis can cause inflammation of the joints in your spine, which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The symptoms of sciatica can vary from person to person, but they may include:
- Pain in your lower back that radiates down your buttocks and into your leg
- Numbness or tingling in your lower back and leg
- Weakness in your leg
- Difficulty walking
- Pain that is worse when you sit or stand
- Pain that is relieved when you lie down
How is sciatica diagnosed?
Your doctor will likely start by asking you about your symptoms and medical history. They will then perform a physical exam to check for any signs of nerve damage. In some cases, your doctor may order imaging tests, such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, to help diagnose the cause of your sciatica.
How is sciatica treated?
The treatment for sciatica will vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying cause. In most cases, sciatica can be treated effectively with non-surgical treatments, such as:
- Rest: This is one of the most important things you can do for sciatica. Resting your back will help to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Ice: Applying ice to your lower back for 20 minutes at a time can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Heat: Applying heat to your lower back for 20 minutes at a time can help to relax muscles and relieve pain.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles in your back and improve your flexibility.
- Spinal manipulation: Spinal manipulation is a type of chiropractic treatment that involves using the hands to move the bones in your spine. This can help to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat sciatica. Surgery is usually only recommended for people who have severe pain that does not respond to non-surgical treatments.
What can I do to prevent sciatica?
There are a few things you can do to help prevent sciatica, such as:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese puts extra stress on your spine, which can increase your risk of sciatica.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in your back and improve your flexibility, which can help to prevent sciatica.
- Stretch regularly. Stretching helps to keep your muscles loose and flexible, which can help to prevent sciatica.
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Sitting for long periods of time can put stress on your spine, which can increase your risk of sciatica.
- Get up and move around every 20-30 minutes if you have to sit for long periods of time.
- Lift objects with your legs, not your back. When you lift objects, bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back.
- Wear supportive shoes. Wearing supportive shoes can help to reduce stress on your spine.
- If you have a job that involves lifting heavy objects, talk to your employer about ways to reduce the risk of injury.
If you have any concerns about sciatica, talk to your Chiropractor.