Sciatica pain is the feeling of discomfort along the path of the sciatic nerve. This pain extends down the back of the leg, causing numbness or tingling that spreads down to your foot. Or sometimes a quick jolt each time you cough or sneeze? Sounds like sciatic nerve pain, right?
Well, maybe. For one thing, “sciatica” is actually a symptom, not a condition. It’s leg pain (anywhere from the lower hip and butt region, all the way down to your toes) resulting from a pinched nerve, most likely because of a herniated or slipped disc. On the contrary to the common belief, actual back pain doesn’t usually come along with sciatica or it’s considered a minor part of the overall problem. For some people, sciatic nerve pain can be so severe and weakening that they don’t even want to get off the couch.
The most common causes of sciatica pain comprise of:
- Muscle strain/pull
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
A few studies and investigation have concluded that those who are overweight, obese, or who smoke are at added risk of developing sciatica and of requiring hospitalization for sciatica. Intake of tobacco or any type of nicotine has contributed to disc degeneration.
The widespread symptoms of sciatica pain consist of:
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
- Hip pain
- Burning or tingling down the leg
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- A constant pain on one side of the rear
- A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
Sciatica is diagnosed with a physical exam and medical history. The characteristic symptoms and certain examination drills help the health care professional to diagnose sciatica. Sometimes, X-rays and other tests, such as CT scan, MRI scan, and electromyogram, are used to further identify the exact causes of sciatica.
The interval of sciatica is critically dependent on its cause. A disc herniation, back sprain, shingles, and degenerative lumbar spine can all be the sources of temporary forms of sciatica, lasting from days to weeks. Each can also cause chronic sciatica. Sometimes degeneration of the lumbar spine and discs can cause chronic sciatica that persists unless a surgical intervention is performed.
Mild sciatica typically goes away over time. Seek medical attention if self-care measures fail to ease your symptoms or if your pain lasts longer than a week. Also, if the pain gets severe or becomes progressively worse, immediately see a doctor for help. The best indication as to when to ask for medical help is when you have trouble controlling your bowels or bladder.