Sciatica is characterized by pain in the sciatic nerve that runs along the length of the leg. The sciatic nerve is a long nerve on both sides of the body. Sciatic pain can occur anywhere along the path of the nerve. Sciatica is often confused with back pain but is not the same. It usually arises due to compression of the nerve in the lower spine.
If we speak technically, then sciatica is a symptom of a problem arising in the sciatic nerve. In this post, we will talk about sciatica in detail along with its symptoms, causes, and treatment.
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What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
Here are some of the common symptoms that people with sciatica may experience:
Pain in sciatica occurs because of pressure on the nerve. One can differentiate sciatic pain from pain caused by other conditions is that sciatic pain may radiate down the leg. Sciatic pain generally occurs while coughing, bending, or sneezing.
Tingling is also a common symptom that is noticed with sciatica.
Sometimes, the person feels no sensations in the lower back or leg. This occurs because the signals fail to reach the brain due to nerve compression.
The sciatic nerve controls several muscles in the leg and the lower back. So, because of nerve compression, muscle weakness may occur. This may affect a person’s ability to move.
This is a severe symptom that affects the ability of a person to control bladder or bowel movements. It occurs because the nerve fails to transfer signals to the brain.
What Are the Causes of Sciatica?
Any injury or compression in the sciatic nerve causes sciatica. This could occur because of several reasons, and they may include:
- Herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
How is Sciatica Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of sciatica requires physical examination as well as certain imaging tests. The healthcare service provider will also ask about the symptoms and medical history. The physical examination will include:
People suffering from sciatica often find it difficult to walk as there will always be a change in the walking pattern. This is what the healthcare service provider will notice.
Straight Leg Test
During this test, the healthcare service provider will ask the patient to lie on a table and to slowly raise the leg toward the ceiling. Here, the doctor will ask the patient to tell when he/she starts feeling pain. This helps the doctor pinpoint the exact cause of sciatica.
Here, the healthcare service provider will check the range of motion of the lower back and the leg. This helps confirm other contributing factors of sciatica.
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What is the Treatment of Sciatica?
In most cases, non-surgical treatment works in reducing pain and increasing mobility. For this, the healthcare service provider will recommend the application of ice or heat, OTC medicines to improve pain and inflammation, and physical therapy. However, severe cases of the condition may require surgery. Surgical options may include discectomy and laminectomy.
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