A Visual Guide to Sciatica
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to back pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve. This is a large nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. When something injures or puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain in the lower back that spreads to the hip, buttocks, and leg. Up to 90% of people recover from sciatica without surgery.
Symptoms of Sciatica
The most common symptom of sciatica is lower back pain that extends through the hip and buttock and down one leg. The pain usually affects only one leg and may get worse when you sit, cough, or sneeze. The leg may also feel numb, weak, or tingly at times. The symptoms of sciatica tend to appear suddenly and can last for days or weeks.
Sciatica or Other Back Pain?
Up to 85% of Americans experience some type of back pain during their lives. But this doesn’t always involve the sciatic nerve. In many cases, back pain is the result of overextending or straining the muscles in the lower back. What most often sets sciatica apart is the way the pain radiates down the leg and into the foot. It may feel like a bad leg cramp that lasts for days.
Who Gets Sciatica?
Most people who get sciatica are between the ages of 30 and 50. Women may be more likely to develop the problem during pregnancy because of pressure on the sciatic nerve from the developing uterus. Other causes include a herniated disk and degenerative arthritis of the spine.
Cause: Herniated Disk
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk. Disks act like cushions between the vertebrae of your spine. These disks get weaker as you age and become more vulnerable to injury. Sometimes the gel-like center of a disk pushes through its outer lining and presses on the roots of the sciatic nerve. About 1 in 50 people will get a herniated disk at some point in life. Up to a quarter of them will have symptoms that last more than 6 weeks.
Cause: Spinal Stenosis
Natural wear and tear of the vertebrae can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing, called spinal stenosis, may put pressure on the roots of the sciatic nerve. Spinal stenosis is more common in adults over age 60.
Cause: Spinal Tumors
Cause: Piriformis Syndrome
A Fat Wallet Can Trigger Piriformis
Cause: Injury or Infection
Diagnosing Sciatica: Exam
Diagnosing Sciatica: Imaging
Complications Related to Sciatica
Sciatica Relief: Ice and Heat
Sciatica Relief: Medication
Sciatica Relief: Stretching
There is evidence that chiropractic adjustments , acupuncture, massage, and yoga can relieve typical lower back pain.
Sciatica Relief: Injections
Sciatica Relief: Surgery
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