Most of us experience back pain one way or the other. But when a sudden and sharp pain suddenly shoots down our back all the way hitting our knees, it becomes quite frightening. This shooting pain can make us so terrified of moving at all, and it’s enough to make us put our arrangements on hold till we figure out what on earth is going on.
This pain, also known as Sciatica, is actually quite common. Studies show that around 40% of people experience sciatica at least once during their lifetime. As the people at Dean’s Sports Therapy explain that while it might be frightening, it can usually be diagnosed and relieved easily in as little as one visit. With proper knowledge about this pain, its causes, symptoms, treatment, and how to prevent it, there won’t be any need for serious worry. So let’s get right into it.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to the shooting pain of a nerve called sciatic nerve. It’s one of the biggest nerves in our body, with its thickness around that of a thumb and its length stretching from the lower back to the buttocks and all the way down to the knees. This nerve is quite important for everything around this area, from muscles, nerves, skin, and function.
What Causes Sciatica
Sciatica results when anything causes the Sciatic Nerve to be inflamed, compressed, or generally hurt in any way. That being said, almost 90% of the cases result from a herniated or slipped disk. What does that mean? Well, our vertebral column is mainly composed of vertebrae (bony structures with a hollow center), disks (cushion-like structures that separate disks and make their movement smooth), and nerves that pass through the hollow centers of the vertebrae.
When one of the disks in this region slides from its position, for one reason or the other, it can press on the sciatic nerve causing this pain. This can be because of extended periods of wrong posture, pursuing a profession where a lot of heavy loads are constantly being carried, or as a result of aging.
Sciatica can also result from other conditions, such as:
- Narrowing of the spinal canal
- Spasm in the lower back muscles
- Weakness in the core muscles
- Inflammation of the sciatic nerve due to infections
Symptoms Your Back Pain Could be from Sciatica
Sciatic nerve pain is described as either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).
With acute sciatica, you’d feel a sudden sharp pain that hits intermittently, and it’s usually mild. With chronic sciatica, the pain remains consistent for a longer period of time and, unlike acute sciatica, it requires medical attention. Common symptoms of sciatica are:
- Numbness in the feet or toe
- Sharp, pricking pain extending anywhere from the lower back to the knee
- The pain can be continuous or hitting one area of the following: lower back, buttocks, hips
- The pain gets worse when sitting down or standing up
When it comes to acute sciatica, medical attention is not usually required. Chronic sciatica requires medical attention, but no matter the case, the first step of treatment is to diagnose the condition that’s resulting in the pain. Sciatica is not a disease or a condition, but it highlights a certain problem that’s causing this pain.
The pain can usually be treated easily by the help of the following means:
- Painkillers, specifically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds (like ibuprofen)
- Physical Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
In case the pain was more advanced or chronic, other treatment options and preventive measures can include:
- Sciatic Nerve Stretching
- Pinched Nerve Relief
- Chiropractic Care
- Spinal Decompression
Relieving Your Sciatica Pain For Good
When you check with your doctor about your back pain, you’ll be able to pinpoint the cause of this pain, how severe your case is, and how you can treat it. Most cases of sciatica are mild and acute, and they can be treated in a matter of weeks. You’d even be able to feel relief in the first visit. If the case is a bit more advanced, your doctor will guide you through the different treatment options you have. In most cases, sciatic nerve pain is totally curable.