Sciatica and its causes

November 12, 2012

Sciatica and its causes

Sciatica, or sciatic pain, normally develops from the lower back and can affect the legs, sometimes all the way down to the toes, and the buttocks. The sciatic pain is sometimes called sciatic nerve pain and is normally intense and may cause a sensation of muscle weakness, also known as heavy leg. The trigger may be unknown but lifting, twisting, bending or even just standing for a while can cause the sciatica to appear. Other common triggers include straining as you go to the toilet, sneezing, coughing or just having a hearty laugh.

Sciatic pain can be relieved, and swimming or walking is recommended by many sufferers. Sometimes no reason can be found for the increasing pain, or the sensation changing from numbness to tingling or the change of location of the pain or even that the pain disappeared for a while.

Sciatic pain, or sciatica is generally caused by an underlying condition, and it is this condition which affects the sciatic nerve. Below is a list of the common causes for having a trapped or pinched nerve:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spondolitis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Spinal injuries affecting the discs
  • Herniated disc

During the initial consultation with your doctor the doctor will check your legs and if a pain is felt when the legs are straightened then it indicates sciatica. If the condition is severe further tests may be initiated such as a CT or MRI scan which can be used to identify the damage and whether it is bone or cartilage or any other issue relating to the spinal column.

The normal treatment for a mild to moderate bout of sciatic pain normally involves resting, but not to the extent that no exercise is taken. Walking whenever possible is good and a physical therapist may instruct on special exercises to be carried out. Over the counter pain killers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetamol may be taken and if the pain is severe the doctor may prescribe analgesics or even an epidural injection, sometimes steroids can help too. If the condition is severe and the sciatic pain is long term then surgery may be the only option. Decompression surgery, where a part of the spinal column, either bone or cartilage, is removed is an effective form of treatment for sciatic nerve pain.

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