Sciatica – or as it may be more accurately known, sciatic neuritis – is a term which most people are passingly familiar with, but may not understand entirely. For such a common ailment (if it can, in fact, be thought of as an ailment at all), few people actually understand what sciatica is, what it involves, and the implications it can have on someone’s quality of life.
With that in mind, we present the following fact sheet about sciatica. We’ll explain what it is, what causes it, and what to do if you believe you have it.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a very common set of symptoms which, generally, are caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerves, which run through the back and into the buttocks area. It is important to realize that sciatica is not an ailment or condition itself, but rather a set of symptoms that may ultimately be caused by a number of different factors.
The most common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Lower back pain
- Leg pain
- Numbness in legs or back
- Muscular weakness and fatigue
- Odd sensations, such as pins and needles
- Inability to effectively control affected leg
Interestingly, the effects of sciatica are most commonly felt only on one side of the body.
What Causes Sciatica?
The sciatic nerves (which can also be thought of as a single nerve with two branches – one down each leg) are the longest in the body. Because of its length, it can be compressed in a number of ways, effectively pinching the nerve and preventing it from functioning properly. This pinching is what manifests itself as the phantom feelings of pain or numbness.
Most typically, sciatica is caused by the compression of either lumbar nerves or sacral nerves, which in turn press down on the sciatic nerve, although occasionally it is the sciatic nerve itself which is compressed. Additionally, the nerve root may be compressed.
Ultimately, symptoms may stem from the growth of a tumor in the area (rare) or simply aggravation of the nerves in the area. Consulting with a doctor may help clarify.
What Is Pseudosciatica?
“Pseudosciatica” is a type of lesser nerve compression which, unlike sciatica, is not related to the spinal nerve root. The pain is otherwise very similar to sciatic pain in that it is felt in the lower back and pelvic region. It is caused by damage to the joints in the lower back and is usually referred pain.
Because sciatica is a broad term for a number of symptoms rather than a term describing an ailment, treatment varies greatly depending on the root cause of the symptoms. If the cause of the sciatic neuritis is prolapsed discs, the problem may even resolve itself over time.
Some of the most commonly prescribed solutions to sciatica include:
- Anti-inflammation medication
- Physical therapy
- Spinal decompression
- Massage therapy
- Weight loss
If you believe you are suffering from sciatica, it is important to seek medical attention. Only an experienced doctor can help you learn more about what is causing your sciatica and help you address the situation before it gets worse.
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