Conditions associated with chronic pain – Let’s talk about Sciatica

Let’s Talk About Sciatica

Sciatica-Pain1

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.

Sciaticarx-A Complete Sciatica Resource

 

*Thank you to neckandbackpain.com.my for the picture.*

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Conditions associated with chronic pain #1-Herniated Disc

Yoga-For-Back-Pain-Relief

Conditions Associated with Chronic Pain – Herniated Discs

There are many conditions that cause or are associated with chronic pain. Over the course of my journey I will explore different conditions, injuries, and illnesses that are related to pain. My hope is to give an overview of the condition/injury/illness along with resources where you can get more information. I want to give back to you as you are giving me strength to continue on my journey.

Once again, I would like to remind you that I am not a medical professional. I am just passing along information I have found researching chronic pain. If you find any of this information helpful, please follow up to the websites or references I note as sources and speak with your doctor.

For this first post in “Conditions associated with chronic pain”, I am going to begin with a condition that is all too familiar to me. The condition and injury to was start of it all for myself; Herniated/Bulging discs. One in eight people will suffer from this type of pain at some point in their lives which is a ridiculous amount of people to experience and suffer from back pain.

First of all, a little anatomy lesson regarding our spines. Our spine is essentially the part of the body that keeps us upright. It goes the length of our body from our tailbone at the topSpine-anatomy-low-back-pain of our buttocks all the way up into the base of our skulls. The spine is made up of vertebrae which is what allows out motion, twisting and bending. In between each vertebra are discs; these discs are our shock absorbers. They allow movement in the spine, like little jelly filled sponges. They will stretch and compact some with the impact we put our bodies through. Our spines and vertebra are sectioned into three basic parts; Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar. Most injury of this type occur in the Lumbar section of the spine, or the lower back however herniation of discs can easily happen in any section of the spine and will cause significant pain.

We are a nation of over eaters, over doers, and stress riddled people. Herniated and/or bulging discs are often the result of bending, twisting, or lifting injuries. We don’t take the time to think about how we are moving, bending at the waist, lifting with the stress of weight on our lower backs rather than bending at the knees and lifting, or repetitive twisting motions. The damage can be sudden from an impact injury or developed over time causing the disc (our shock absorbing sponges) to bulge and not bounce back. This bulging protrudes into the spinal canal. This alone can cause pain and discomfort when a disc is not where it should be, but more often what causes the pain is the protrusion putting pressure on the nerves that send pain impulses throughout body such as the Sciatic nerve.

The spinal nerves lie extremely close to the spine so any misalignment of the spine, such as a bulging or “slipped disc” can cause pain. Treatment of this condition often starts conservatively, such as hot/cold therapy and medication attempting to reduce the swelling, inflammation, and relax the muscles around the injury. Medication treatment is often started first, NSAIDs, and sometimes strong steroid treatment as well as pain medication. If pain continues, more aggressive treatment such as physical therapy. Surgical treatment is usually a last resort.

Please continue to check in. My next segment will explore the condition of Sciatica. If you have any questions, or I can direct you to additional information, please don’t hesitate to email or use the contact form on my contact page.

Thank you to the following sources:

http://www.sciaticarx.com/disc-herniation.php – Sciaticarx

https://www.verywell.com/conditions-most-often-associated-with-chronic-pain-2564563 – 20 Conditions most associated with chronic pain

ABC’s of Chronic Pain – Let’s start at the beginning

pain stockWhat is Chronic Pain?

It is reported that over 100 million Americans are currently suffering with chronic pain, either episodic or ongoing, mild to incapacitating.  Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting more than 12 weeks in duration versus acute pain which is temporary, normal, sensation usually indicating sickness or a specific injury. For example, you take a slip off a step and twist your ankle. A sudden sensation of pain occurs, this is acute pain and with proper care, this pain should subside quickly.  Chronic pain, in contrast, is ongoing where the pain receptors remain active for months or longer.

The most common sources of long term pain are headaches, joint pain, back pain, injuries causing long term tendonitis, or generalized pain in the hips, shoulders, and neck. Whereas most chronic pain can be attributed to an initial injury, such as a back sprain or illness, there are, however, instances where chronic pain cannot be pinpointed to any clear cause or conditions such as Carpal Tunnel or Fibromyalgia where pain receptors are rapidly firing.

Pain is not a symptom that stands alone. It is associated with other symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia, changes in mood, and if the pain goes on long enough – depression. Chronic pain affects ongoing mobility, flexibility, and often hindering the sufferer’s quality of life preventing them from enjoying life due to the reduction in stamina and strength. The symptoms of chronic pain range from aching to burning pain and often described as a relentless.

Chronic pain can become debilitating, not just physically but mentally as well. The longer the episodes of pain go on, the harder it is on the person experiencing it causing emotional, psychological, and mental hardship. Feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, and negativity added to the lack of sleep and poor nutrition, living with chronic pain become a vicious cycle even the strongest person can find difficult to endure.

Pain is also subjective, a six on the pain scale is not the same for everyone. The worst pain you have experienced may far exceed what I would consider the worst pain I have ever experienced. This is one of the reason health care professionals have a difficult task in diagnosing chronic pain, especially when there does not appear to be a specific identifiable cause (such as serious injury).  Because of this, often times it can appear that the pain you are experiencing is not being taken seriously only adding to the frustration, anger, and anxiety you already have.

In closing, if you are suffering…remain diligent. Do not let your feelings and pain be lessened by anyone, including your physicians, just because they don’t understand what you are experiencing. Be honest…Be detailed…Be specific. Keep a journal, take notes, and take advantage of all diagnostic tools available to you to help you get to the source of your discomfort. Take action and be involved in how you are being treated and seek out alternative relief methods if necessary. Try to focus through the pain on those things you can do to get you out of the storm and back into the sun.

 

Thank you to the following sources:

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg5-6.html – NIH Medline Plus – National Institute of Health

http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/understanding-pain-management-chronic-pain – WebMD – What is Chronic Pain and What Are The Symptoms?