Sciatic Nerve Problems

Sciatic nerve problems are painful conditions affecting millions of people worldwide each year. The problem seems to last for a lifetime, like it will never go away from you; even when you sit, stand and lie flat on bed, the pain is there, and even when you want to be productive by doing household chores, it is still there. Pain is unbearable and the most brilliant thing to help you to be pain-free will always be the medical treatment.

Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in our body. It originates from the lower part of the spinal cord, to the hips, buttocks and ends in the foot; in short, it covers mostly of the lower portion of the body including the hips, back muscles, thigh, lower leg and foot. Like any other nerves, it functions to transmit information from the brain causing pain sensation, and muscle movement of the legs. As such, any problem of the sciatic nerve will involve mostly the lower body. All the activities that make you use more of the legs, buttocks, or thighs will be difficult and unbearable to do.

Problems in the sciatic nerve are combination of symptoms which is commonly called, “sciatica” that causes burning and tingling sensation going down the legs, buttock discomfort when sitting, difficulty moving leg and foot resulting to weakness, buttocks and lower back pain and sharp pain in the hips going down the legs. These problems are generally limited to one side of the lower extremities and caused by the different factors:
Bulging lumbar disc – usually when one ages, his lumbar disc begins to bulge. Although bulging of the disc cannot cause symptoms because it doesn’t usually come into contact with spinal nerves. They become problematic if the bulging of the disc is too far causing it to narrow and constrict. Nerve pressure happens and pain and numbness can be felt in the legs, feet and thighs.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – as it is also common in old age, the spinal canal becomes narrow.

Spondylolisthesis – this is a congenital defect acquired from birth which causes leg pain. It is a condition where there is forwarding of a vertebra relative to the vertebra below. This can cause nerve compression and disability respectively.

The Piriformis Syndrome – it is named after the piriformis muscle. This muscle is located near the buttocks. With Piriformis Syndrome, the sciatic nerve is compressed by piriformis muscle causing tingling sensation and numbness on the hips, thighs and buttocks.

It is important to know the causes being mentioned above because by knowing it, sciatic nerve problems can be resolved. However, even if these are not permanent, they can interfere with your normal day to day activities from simple to complex. As such, it’s important that you have to take responsible of your health by seeking consultation and obtain an accurate diagnosis from a reliable healthcare provider. In this way, proper treatment can be given.

HOW TO DIAGNOSE?

The diagnosis made by the health care professional is usually based on the symptoms. However, to confirm the diagnosis and make it accurate, some additional tests are required such as X-RAY, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) scans.

When the diagnosis has been ruled out, appropriate treatments are done next.

TREATMENT

Problems of the sciatic nerve heal with time, but treatment as comfort measures are necessary.
Apply an ice pack using crashed ice wrapped in a towel. Directly apply to the area no more than 20 minutes. Cold application can numb the pain and reduce inflammation. Do it several times a day as you can tolerate it.

Hot and cold application is done alternately on the first days of pain. Cold application is done first, and when the pain subsides, apply heat to the painful area for no more than 20 minutes. This helps soothe the pain and increase blood flow to the injured area thereby increasing wound healing.

Exercise is also important in relieving the pain. You can do stretching of your lower legs and lower back and hold it for 30 seconds or as long as you can.

Start with low-impact exercises such as biking, walking and aerobics. Perform only exercises that you can only tolerate or those advised to you by your physical therapist. Your body will just adjust to it and intensity may be increased. Low impact exercises are done 3-5 times daily for 30 minutes.

Take anti-pain and anti-inflammatory medications as advised by your health care professional. Your duration, dose and frequency must be followed religiously.

Sometimes, when symptom calls for a higher medication, steroid injections are usually given. However, the dose must be exact and the patient must be oriented with the side effects of the drug.

When treatments above are no longer effective, surgical options are the last resort to correct sciatic nerve problems. Discuss this with your doctor to know what are the process of the procedure, the rate of its effectiveness and the contraindications prior to the surgery.

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