It is not too uncommon at all to hear a person say that “I threw my back out”. That person will be on the couch for a week, hardly moving and in great pain. Actually the person’s sciatic nerve is inflamed, which is causing that person sciatic nerve pain.
What Is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve has the honor of being the largest nerve throughout the body. It starts in the lumbar spinal cord with nerve roots that go from the lower back and into the buttocks area. With the nerve endings that reach into the legs, it controls everything about the legs. In fact, it controls the legs from the largest hamstring muscle to the tiniest blood vessels in the feet.
Sciatica is progressive pain from dull to sharp, which runs along the spine from the lower back to the buttocks region and down to the legs. The sciatic nerve roots being irritated causes the pain. By sitting or standing too long in a fixed position can cause the pain to worsen.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sciatica?
Since each person is different, the sciatic nerve pain symptoms are different for each person. However, all symptoms are caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve. For some people, they have a tingling sensation in their leg where they can’t keep their leg still without having discomfort. Others may experienced lower back pain which moves into the buttocks area and down their leg with a burning feeling.
Sciatica pain can also cause loss of control and weakness of the affected leg. Sometimes the pain may even reach below the knees and into the foot. Usually sciatica nerve pain affects only one side of the person’s body. This condition seems to affect people between the ages of 30′s and 50′s in most cases. People with diabetes will have to be especially careful because, as diabetics, the chances of getting sciatica increases and may results in permanent damage to the sciatic nerve.
What Are The Causes Of Sciatic Nerve Pain?
There are various causes of sciatic nerve pain. A bulging or ruptured disc is one of the most common causes. The ruptured disc pushes against the nerve roots which lead to the actual sciatic nerve causing pain. Another cause can be spinal stenosis, a condition where the spinal canal begins to narrow as people get older. This narrowing can press on the spinal cord which pinches the nerve and irritates it. Other factors which can cause this narrowing include spondylolisthesis, bone spurs, spinal tumors, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, trauma or injury.
Sciatic nerve pain is also common in people who have piriformis syndrome, a condition caused by the piriformis muscle with the sciatic nerve going through the muscle rather than under it. When the muscle tightens or spasms, it compresses the nerve causing the pain. This condition is also known as the “wallet sciatica” syndrome because carrying an overloaded wallet in the rear pocket compresses the muscle and the sciatic nerve when the person sits down for too long. As such, this leads to sciatic nerve irritation and the accompanying symptoms.
Sciatic nerve pain can also happen during pregnancy because the fetus may be sitting on the sciatic nerve. While this does not cause any harm to the mother or fetus, the mother has to be careful when trying to walk when her legs are numb to avoid falling.
7 Ways to Stop Sciatic Nerve Pain
There are different methods used to stop sciatic nerve pain. Generally, it is advisable to try out some of the treatment options before surgery is considered.
- The ice pack treatment involves lying flat with two flat pillows placed under the knees. Place ice on the side where the nerve is inflamed. Place it on the lower back, the buttock on the side affected or tailbone for up to 20 minutes every 2-3 hours. This helps to decrease inflammation in the sciatic nerve and relieving pain albeit temporarily.
- Use a heating pad or a hot pack four to five days when there is flare up. Alternate between the heat and the cold, and only use the heat for 20 minutes at a time. Use this technique with cautions as too much heat can cause the tissues to dry out. Also, do not put heat or ice directly on the spine.
- Medications can be used to help relieve pinched sciatic nerve pain also. Over the counter drugs such as Acetaminophen, Naproxen or non-steroid anti-inflammatory agents will help take the edge off. In severe cases, drugs such as opioids, steroids or muscle relaxers may be needed.
- Physical therapy may prescribed by the doctor depending on the severity of the condition. Professional therapists have special techniques which they use to help combat the effects of the pain in patients. The treatment program is usually a conservative one, made up specifically of exercises to relieve sciatic nerves pain which can also be done at home.
- Natural or home remedies which are effective in relieving pain. Some people who believe in natural treatments adopt homeopathic medicine instead of drug medications. Some of these natural nutrients such as turmeric, herb rosemary and tulsi are popular choices in relieving sciatic nerve pain. One of the most effective ‘old-tales’ home remedy is using ginger to make into a tea or rued for the juice. By eating an anti-inflammatory diet which contains more fruits (Pineapple has a natural anti-flammatory agent in it called Bromelein), vegetables and fish as opposed to a diet rich in dairy, shellfish and red meats will help in nerve pain relief.
- Drinking lots of water and keeping hydrated is important. When a person isn’t hydrated, the body’s tissues can become tacky. This can cause adhesions between the sciatic nerve and the tissue surrounding the area. Adhesions increase scaring inside and prevent healing. With that, the negative effects is repeated nerve pain flare-ups. Drinking water is therefore vital which helps to flush out the toxins caused by the muscles spasms and hydrate the spinal discs.
- Take good care of the body. A person needs to take care of the body to avoid repeat episodes of pain attack. Get plenty of rest or sleep as this is the state whereby the body repairs and heals itself. Avoid sitting too long when your sciatic nerve is acting up. You can walk around or engage in light activities which is beneficial in loosening the tense back muscles and lessen the ‘tight’ strain on the sciatic nerve. Otherwise, lying down with alternate short walks can help relieve some of the pain also.
Is it difficult to live with sciatica? NO! In fact, as long as you adopt preventive measures and adopt the above techniques, sciatic nerve pain can be control with no disruptions to your lifestyle.
Some of the daily preventive tips include:
- Avoid heavy lifting to prevent injury or strain on the nerve
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Have a balanced diet and drink more water
- Improve your siting or standing posture
- Avoid sleeping on a mattress which is too soft
- Regular exercising will help to improve and strengthen your core muscles in the abdomen and lower back
When the sciatic nerve pain acts up, get professional help as soon as possible. If left untreated for too long, a minor sciatic nerve problem can evolve into severe nerve damages which can become irreversible. If the condition is worsen, it can affects your work or even your important life events. Hence, it is advisable to remedy the problem in the early stage to avoid complications. Besides, early diagnosis and treatment can improve sciatica condition and may even go away after a period of time.
However, most people always procrastinate due to the common reasons like “I have no time“, “I need to work“, “I do not want to take any medications“, “I cannot afford the treatment costs of physiotherapy” ,” Surgery on my spine? NO WAY!” and so on.
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