Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the human body. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down each leg. Sciatica typically affects only one side of the body.
The pain associated with sciatica can vary widely and may include:
- Sharp or burning pain: This pain may radiate from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the back or side of the leg.
- Numbness or tingling: People with sciatica may experience sensations of numbness or tingling in the affected leg.
- Weakness: Sciatica can cause weakness in the affected leg or foot, making it difficult to move or control the leg.
Sciatica is not a medical condition itself but rather a symptom of an underlying problem, often related to compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Common causes of sciatica include:
When a disc in the spine presses against the nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve, it can lead to sciatica.
Narrowing of the spinal canal can put pressure on the nerves, including the sciatic nerve.
The piriformis muscle in the buttocks can sometimes irritate or compress the sciatic nerve, leading to symptoms.
This condition occurs when one vertebra slips forward over another, putting pressure on the nerves.
Trauma or Injury:
Injuries to the spine or buttocks can cause inflammation or compression of the sciatic nerve.
Treatment for sciatica depends on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. It may include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be used to alleviate pain and inflammation.
- Exercises and stretches can help improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles that support the back.
Heat or Cold Therapy:
- Applying heat or cold to the affected area may provide relief.
Epidural Steroid Injections:
- In some cases, corticosteroid injections into the space around the spinal nerve may be recommended to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- In severe cases where conservative treatments are ineffective, surgery may be considered to address the underlying cause of the compression.