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Sciatica

Sciatica can be defined as the pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve. This usually starts from the lower back through the hips and the buttocks and goes down in the legs.

When a person suffers from sciatica he or she undergoes pain in the spine that gets prolonged and is even felt in the back of the leg and usually occurs on only one side of the body.

The pain usually starts when the bone spur compresses one of the nerve parts. When the pain occurs it will lead to inflammation, pain, and some kind of numbness in the leg that has been affected. The suffering due to the sciatic pain often becomes severe but can be treated without any surgery. Surgery can be suggested for only patients who undergo bladder changes. Otherwise, through medication and physiotherapy, the pain can be treated within a few weeks.

Symptoms

When pain circulates from the lower spine to the buttocks and moves forward down the back of the leg then it can be indicated as sciatica. Wherever the nerve path goes, there will be discomfort in the path, but usually, the pain will be from the lower back to the buttock then to the thigh and the calf.

Sometimes the pain will be mild or sometimes it could be a little more as well. However, it can be reduced widely through medication and physiotherapy. When the pain is severe it sometimes feels like an electric shock. The pain aggravates when you sit for a long time and one of the sides is affected. The other symptom can be when some people experience numbness in the affected leg.

Types of sciatica pain

Depending on the duration of symptoms and if one or both legs are affected, sciatica can be of different types:

Acute sciatica usually happens when the bone spur on the spine is compressed to the part of the nerve. There could be inflammation, pain, and numbness in the affected leg.

Chronic sciatica lasts for a long duration. Sometimes it goes away but again comes back.

Alternating sciatica affects both legs alternatively.

Bilateral sciatica, unlike alternative sciatica, occurs in both legs.

Diagnosis

For an accurate diagnosis, the doctor will examine physically by checking the strengths of the muscle and the reflexes. The doctor will ask the patient to walk on the toes and heels. This is because the pain of sciatica is triggered during such activities and it will be easier for the doctors to treat the patient. Some of the methods of the diagnosis are 

  • An X-ray will reveal if there is an overgrowth of the pain that could be the cause of the pain as the overgrowth part will press on the nerve.

  • MRI procedure uses magnetic and radio waves that are quite powerful to catch detailed images of the bone and the tissues.

  • CT Scan is used to get the image of the spine by a simple procedure of injecting a contrast dye that appears white on the scan.

  • Electromyography which EMG is used to measure the electrical impulses which are produced by the nerves.

Treatments 

Medications- Some of the types that would be prescribed by the doctor to relieve the pain would include Anti-inflammatories, Muscle relaxants, Narcotics, Tricyclic antidepressants and Anti-seizure medications.

Physical therapy- This is advised when there is a reduction to acute pain through the medications prescribed by the doctor. Physical therapy includes exercises that will correct the posture and also strengthen the muscles that support the back and there is an improvement in the flexibility.

Steroid injections can be recommended according to the condition. The injection is given in the area of the root of the nerve. 

Surgery will be the last option to be prescribed by the doctor. The surgery method will only be opted if the nerve causes the weakness or there is a loss of bladder control, the pain is too much or there is no improvement with any of the prescribed medications.

Cold and hot packs It is advisable to apply the heat pack to the areas of pain. You can use cold packs. This will give a great amount of relief. keep the cold pack at least for 20 minutes on the painful area.

Exercises like stretching for the lower back will give great relief to the pain. Avoid jerking or twisting while you are exercising. Some pain reliefs will be prescribed by the doctors. When the pain increases inhaling one of the painkillers will give you comfort. The doctors will recommend some more therapies like Acupuncture and Chiropractic.

Frequently Asked Questions

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