6 June 2023
The sciatic is a nerve that starts in the lower back, extends through the hip and buttocks, and then down the leg. Each person has one sciatic nerve on each side of the body. Sciatica is considered a symptom, but not a medical problem of its own. It is defined as a pain, weakness, tingling, or even numbness anywhere along the nerve.
As mentioned, it is only a symptom, the actual medical problem or issue is the result of an injury or undue pressure. The pain can be anything from minor to severe. In most cases it clears up in a few days. If someone experiences a herniated disk or if a bone grows more than it should, pressure builds up on the sciatic. If it progresses untreated, the individual may experience exceptional weakness in the leg and even bowel or bladder issues. Generally sciatica affects only one side of the body at a time.
The symptoms can appear anywhere along the nerve’s path. Generally it will begin at the low back or buttock and then down the back of the leg through the thigh and possibly even the calf. It may present in different ways like a jolt, electric shock, or just a shooting pain. It can be a mild ache or sharp. Some people also have numbness or weakness. In fact it is possible to have different symptoms at the same time.
Generally the pain will dissipate over time and there are some preventive measures that can be taken. However, if the pain lasts over a week or gets worse, contact your primary care physician or go to urgent care. If you have trouble controlling your bowels or bladder, seek immediate attention. If the conditions begin after some type of a trauma like a car accident, or fall, seek medical attention for not just the symptoms but to rule out some more serious injury.
The pinching of the nerve can result from a spinal disk problem like a herniation or bone spur. Some diseases, diabetes for one, can cause sciatica. Rarely, but not out of the question, is a tumor.
Some people are more at risk than others. The factors are probably pretty obvious. Age is always a contributor to most conditions. In this case, the bones can develop spurs or disks will become damaged. Especially the more elderly are at risk because of falls or other issues related to osteoporosis. Obesity or just too much weight will increase the pressure on the spine. Some occupations that require carrying heavy loads or where the body will twist a lot during the day can affect the nerve. Lack of movement is probably the most likely culprit to cause problems with the sciatic nerve. Sitting for long periods of time (at the computer, at a call center, extended meetings) can lead to issues. As mentioned earlier, diabetics may be prone to sciatica because of potential nerve damage that results from ineffective use of blood sugar.
There are measures you can take to avoid sciatica or its recurrence. Proper exercise will be the top choice, especially those exercises that strengthen the core muscles in the abdomen and lower back. If you are going to sit for long periods of time anyway, keep your posture erect as much as you can. Be sure your chair has strong lower back support and keep your knees and hips at the same level. Whenever lifting, use caution and follow everything you know you should do. This includes lifting with your legs, hold the load close to your body and don’t lift and twist at the same time.