A healthy adult will feel, on an average, about five bodily symptoms a year. These symptoms are generally self-limiting, with mild to moderate intensity. These healthy adult patients will find no need to seek medical consult. However, if one of those symptoms was lower back pain, radiating to the thigh and knee, you should definitely see a doctor because this is sciatica.What is sciatica or sciatic nerve pain and how does it develop? What are the ways to treat it?
Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatica is a syndrome and not a disease. The constellation of symptoms consists of leg pain, which might feel like a bad leg cramp, or it can be severe shooting pain that makes standing or sitting nearly unbearable. The pain might be worse when you sit, sneeze, or cough. You might also feel weakness, numbness, or a burning or tingling sensation down your leg and toes. Less common symptoms might include the inability to bend your knee or move your foot and toes.
Before we find out what causes it, we should know a little bit anatomy first. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and begins from nerve roots in the lumbar spinal cord in the low back and extends through the buttock area to send nerve endings down the lower limb. Sciatica is most commonly a result of a lumbar disc herniation directly pressing or pinching on the nerve. However, in addition to being pinched or pressed, any cause of irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve can produce the symptoms of sciatica. The most common conditions associated with sciatic nerve pain include:
- Slipped Disc
- Piriformis muscle spasms
- Spinal stenosis
Because sciatic nerve pain is just a syndrome or a symptom of an underlying disorder, treatment is aimed at managing that condition. If, for example, the cause is addressed, then the pain may disappear or decrease in intensity as a result. Some common management modalities for sciatic nerve include:
- Having the patient rest and avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activities
- Pain medicines and anti-inflammatory drugs help to relieve pain and stiffness, allowing for increased mobility and exercise
- Physical therapy which involves exercise movements aimed at decreasing sciatic pain by reducing pressure on the nerve.
- We also recommend surgery for patients not responding to conservative treatment, those with progressive symptoms, and those with severe pain.