Let’s Talk About Sciatica
I am fairly sure everyone has heard of this, if not experienced it…that aching, burning, painful, tingling, and numbing feeling that seems to sit in your buttock or hip. It can often travel down your leg where you feel the pain in your knee or tingling in your feet in toes. The first time you experience it, you say “Lord, what is this?” Then there is always someone who knowingly says and nods, “ah, pinched nerve” or “that’s your sciatic acting up.” This doesn’t help you at first, but once explained it becomes much more clear. Sciatica or the pinching of the sciatic nerve can happen occasionally or it can be an ongoing experience to everyday occurrence as part of the chronic pain you experience. With that said, let’s start at the beginning to understanding Sciatica.
What is Sciatic? I am so glad you asked. Sciatica is the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body starting in your lower back crossing at your pelvic bone and travels down the back of your leg where it branches off in to smaller nerves through your calves and down into your feet and toes. When injured or irritated, this nerve starts sending out pain impulses that are often described as shooting, burning, tingling, achy, or numbing. The more injured the stronger the impulse.
Nearly everyone will experience sciatica at some point in their lives, however, not everyone will develop sciatica at chronic levels. You develop sciatica simply by pinching the nerve. You can bend wrong, pick up something wrong, or twist and find yourself grabbing yourself from the sudden screaming of the nerve. I remember the first time I pinched my sciatic nerve; I bent over to pick up a laundry basket of clothes and dropped it almost as fast because the pain from it was that sudden. It shot down my leg to my knee and found myself crawling to my couch. I was only 17, so it can truly happen to anyone. In this case, what likely happened is I just moved wrong, pinch the nerve against the vertebrae and inflamed it. A couple of days of heat and cold treatment, ibuprofen, and easy stretches to help loosen the inflamed muscles; I was back on my feet. This was an acute case; it does go away and you go back to life as normal.
Now we know a little more, let’s discuss chronic cases. Chronic cases are cases where the pain does not go away for more than two or three months and is often experienced in conjunction with an injury. Chronic sciatica usually a symptom or associated disorder to herniated discs or lower spine injury. In these cases, the sciatic nerve is pinched from the bulging disc essentially pinning the nerve in the lower portion of the spinal canal, against the tailbone (sacrum) or within the pelvic area.
Sciatic pain can be reduced even in chronic conditions. Much like treating lower back conditions, treatment is often started conservatively. Heat/ice treatment, NSAID’s, and steroid treatments to reduce inflammation and relieve pressure. The additional of mild to moderate exercise can help to keep muscle loose and keep them from tightening around the injured area which can cause more pain.
If you experience pain for more than a day or two, consult your doctor. If the pain persists, additional diagnoses and tests may be necessary and the consultant of a specialist. In an additional segment, I will post some stretches that may help. Also, I highly recommend checking out the link I provide below. It’s perhaps the most comprehensive website dedicated to Sciatica and its treatment I have ever found.
*Thank you to neckandbackpain.com.my for the picture.*