It’s not something that gets freely discussed as much as it should, and many of us think of it as something that only affects much older people. However, sciatic nerve pain is a common health issue that as many as 40 percent of people get during their lifetime. Many sufferers are young, too, often in their thirties through to fifties.
If you’ve started to notice that you’re getting horrible pain radiating down the back of your leg(s) or have some numbness or tingling that goes down to your foot, you may be dealing with sciatica. Even if you’re not currently having any problems, it’s still good to understand this prevalent condition. Sciatic nerve pain arises when the sciatic nerve (the longest and largest nerve in the body) gets compressed. The result can be awful pain and many daily disruptions. Here’s the lowdown on what you need to know about this issue today.
It’s crucial to see a physician to get a proper diagnosis, rather than guessing what you may be dealing with. Book in to see a virtual doctor or arrange an in-person visit so you can discuss what you’ve been feeling. Some of the common symptoms that point to sciatica, though, include unilateral leg pain from your lower hip and bottom down. Some people get back pain, too, but typically the discomfort is felt lower on the body. For some sufferers, the pain radiates down to the feet and even toes.
You might also notice numbness in the lower parts of your body or paresthesia, an abnormal feeling such as tingling, burning, tickling, or pricking of the skin. You may find that you’re weak in the knee of the leg with problems or that your entire leg seems weaker than usual. Some people have bad pain but find it hard to identify the location of the discomfort. While muscular pain is typically picked up on when the relevant area of the body is pressed, sciatic nerve pain can be much harder to pinpoint.
In a small percentage of cases, people with sciatica can have an emergency such as a sudden loss of control of the bladder or bowel. This is rare, but if it happens, get to the hospital right away. The spinal column could be putting too much pressure on the sciatic nerve and, if you don’t have an operation ASAP, you could end up with permanent bladder or bowel function damage.
Sciatic nerves get compressed and painful for numerous reasons. For example, a lumbar herniated disc, also known as a pinched nerve, bulging disc, or ruptured, slipped, or the protruding disc can cause the issue. When the soft inner material of a spinal disc herniates through the fibrous outer core, it can pinch or irritate the contiguous nerve root.
You might learn that your sciatica has occurred due to lumbar degenerative disc disease, where the discs weaken significantly much earlier than average. The weakened discs go through excessive micro-motions, which expose internal inflammatory proteins and irritates the nerve root, causing pain.
Sciatic nerve problems can stem from bone spurs (osteophytes), which press against the spinal nerve, or arthritis and other types of inflammation that negatively affect the nerve. Some sciatica sufferers have isthmic spondylolisthesis, a small stress fracture that causes a vertebra to slip forward onto another. In addition, people with sciatic nerve pain sometimes have lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition where the spinal canal narrows and leads to significant discomfort.
Since so much pain can come with sciatica, it’s natural to turn to painkillers for help. However, make sure you do so under the supervision of a medical practitioner. You want the cause of your nerve pain to be correctly diagnosed and a suitable, sustainable course of treatment prescribed that won’t lead to other concerns, such as pain medication addiction.
Some people also successfully deal with their sciatic nerve pain with practices such as acupuncture, yoga, massage, and visiting a chiropractor or physical therapist. In addition, you could try interventional procedures to reduce the amount of pressure on your sciatic nerve, such as spinal injections. In many cases, the best way forward is to have surgery. This is often the only real solution to treat the condition long-term. Surgeons can recommend minimally invasive procedures to get you feeling better.
Sciatic nerve pain is a severe and frequently debilitating health problem for those who have to deal with it. The sooner you can get yourself checked and diagnosed, the sooner you can learn what you need to do and start getting treatment to assist you in living your life more freely.