Myth : We Dont Know What Causes Sciatica
Fact: Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched or compressed, and that typically is caused by a bulging or herniated disk between the vertebrae in the lower spine.
It can also be caused by a bone spur, or bony growth, on the spine itself or by spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. In rare cases, a spinal tumor can compress the nerve, causing sciatic pain.
Question: Is Leg Pain From Sciatica Caused By A Problem In The Leg
Answer: No, sciatic leg pain is usually caused by a problem in the lower back.
Leg pain is a common symptom of sciatica and, while the pain may be felt in the legs, the source of the pinched nerve is not at the location of the pain itself. The pinched nerve is usually located in the lower back.
The reason the pain is felt somewhere else is because the sciatic nerve travels all the way from the lower back to the feet. So nerve compression in the low back can trick the brain into feeling the pain anywhere along that route.
Question: So What Exactly Is Sciatica
Answer: Sciatica is a group of symptoms associated with a pinched sciatic nerve.
The symptoms of sciatica manifest themselves in various ways. You may have just one of them or you could experience several of them at the same time. They usually only affect one side of the body, but occasionally have been known to affect both sides at the same time. And to top it off, sometimes you will find that they move to different locations.
The symptoms of sciatica may or may not include lower back pain, pain on one side, pain in the left or right buttock, pain down the back of the leg and/or foot pain. These symptoms are often described as numbness, tingling, pins and needles or a burning, achy soreness that can travel down through the buttocks to the leg or foot.
One thing to keep in mind is that, even though the pain is usually in the legs or buttocks, it is actually a “referred pain” that has nothing to do with those locations at all. It is caused by a structural element in the lower back impinging on the sciatic nerve and your brain just thinks the pain is in your legs or buttocks. Sciatic nerve irritation often occurs at the L5 or S1 levels of the spine where the nerve exits the spinal canal.
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Is Surgery Necessary For Sciatica
If, despite doing everything one is instructed to do, the pain continues and the CT or MRI shows a problem with the disc or bone, back surgery may be recommended. Back surgery is generally performed for patients who have tried all other methods of treatment first. There are exceptions to this, such as people with ongoing nerve damage or cauda equina syndrome.
Myth : All Leg Pain Qualifies As Sciatica
Fact: Ottone often hears from people who believe that any leg pain qualifies as sciatica, but thats not true.
Leg pain can be induced by vascular issues, muscle strains, cellulitis, or a different nerve being irritated, such as the femoral nerve, which would cause pain in the front of the leg, Dr. Ottone says.
A true sciatic symptom runs from the mid-buttock down the back of the leg, commonly past the knee and down through the calf.
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How Long Does The Sciatica Pain Last
The duration, intensity and persistence of sciatica pain varies among the suffering individuals. In the common scenarios, the acute sciatica pain subsides in around a month whereas the chronic one can stay up for several months. If not treated on time or neglected, the condition could lead to situation where moving the lower limb becomes extremely difficult staying back for years together.
However, it has been observed that sticking to conservative therapeutic measures like yoga, acupuncture, body work and other techniques, can significantly reduce or diminish the sciatica pain. When these measures fail to provide sufficient relief then pain killers and surgical measures are opted to treat the condition. Hence, the outlook for the sciatica pain condition is excellent with optimal treatments.
Causes Of Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatica can be caused by any issue that compresses the sciatic nerve. Many people experience sciatic nerve pain because of a bulging or herniated disc. Spinal stenosis, where the spinal column gets narrower because of aging, can also cause sciatica.
Other conditions that can lead to sciatic nerve pain include:
- Bad posture
- Nerve disorders
Without relief, sciatica can lead to serious health complications because of the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Some of the issues that could arise include:
- Ending up with a slipped or herniated disc
- Increasing levels of pain
- Losing control of your bowels or bladder
- Losing feeling in the leg affected by sciatic nerve pain
- Irreversible nerve damage
Risk factors for sciatica
Sciatica appears to affect men and women equally. The condition often starts in individuals after they turn 40. Height only seems to make a difference in the level of sciatic nerve pain experienced in people between the ages of 50 and 60. Its uncommon for individuals 20 and younger to develop sciatica outside of a traumatic event.
There does appear to be an occupational tie to the condition. People who work as machine operators or truck drivers or in other jobs that place them in awkward positions for extended periods may be more prone to developing sciatica.
Question: Can Sciatica Lead To Permanent Damage
Answer: Yes, serious nerve damage can occur with sciatica.
The pain from sciatica is the result of very real damage to your sciatic nerve. Usually, this damage is only minor and will heal once the pinched nerve is relieved. In all probability it will not result in permanent nerve damage, but the possibility does exist.
However, sciatica is nothing to fool with and you should always see your doctor if you suspect that your symptoms are the result of a pinched nerve. Some signs of serious nerve damage due to sciatica include the inability to control your bowel or bladder, an increasing weakness in your legs or the loss of feeling or sensation in your legs or feet. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms seek immediate medical attention.
Is Sciatic Pain Permanent Or Will It Go Away
There are few things worse in the world than chronic back pain, if youre currently suffering from sciatica or you have suffered in the past youll know how quickly it can take over your life and rob you of the ability to do even the most mundane day-to-day activities.
Over time this can have a serious impact on your physical and emotional wellness, so its more than valid to wonder if the pain will ever go away or if youre going to suffer from it for life.
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When To Talk With A Professional
Most of the time, mild sciatica will go away within 4 to 6 weeks. But you should talk with your doctor at the onset of symptoms to make sure youre dealing with sciatica. You return to see a medical professional if:
- your pain is getting progressively worse
- your symptoms start after a sudden injury
- you have severe pain, muscle weakness, or numbness
- you lose control of your bladder or bowels
- symptoms last longer than 6 weeks
- pain interferes with your daily life
- you havent responded to treatment after your initial visit to see a health professional
After your initial visit to see a health professional, you should discuss a plan for when to return if symptoms havent gone away.
Myth : Sciatica Cannot Be Prevented
Not all cases of sciatica can be prevented, but staying active and using proper form during activities can go a long way toward reducing the incidence and recurrence of lower back pain, according to Fishman.
Spinner adds that maintaining a strong core that is, strengthening the muscles in your abdomen and back can also help prevent sciatica recurrence.
Pilates is notable for increasing core strength and can be adapted to many health conditions, including sciatica.
Ottone contributes a few more suggestions: Sciatica can be prevented by practicing good posture, minimizing sitting, managing weight, maintaining good hamstring flexibility, and maintaining good spinal alignment.
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What Does Sciatica Feel Like
The hallmark sign of sciatica is one-sided pain that begins in the low back and radiates down the buttock, thigh, calf and foot. Sciatica rarely affects both sides of the body. You can experience symptoms anywhere along the nerve pathway, but pain is usually more severe in the leg and foot than in the low back. Symptoms include:
- Pain thats described as shooting, burning, stabbing or electric
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle weakness in the leg or foot
Sciatic pain can be constant or come and go. Movements that aggravate or worsen sciatic pain include coughing, sneezing, standing up, and sitting or standing for long periods of time.
Depression And Negative Emotions
Stress can be a trigger for any kind of pain, including sciatica. According to Dr. John Sarno, a Physician at the New York University Medical Center and Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine Professor at New York University School of Medicine, bodily pain can be a result of repressed emotions and stress.
Sciatica and Dr. Sarnos study on mind-body pain became topics of interest for people who suffer pain in their the lumbar area, buttocks, legs, and feet. For years, he has been advocating a different approach to determining the cause and managing back pain that is associated with emotions rather than those that are picked up through MRI scans or verified using a diagnostic injection.
Needless to say, not all medical professionals have been supportive of his straightforward yet patient-centric way on diagnosing and treating back pains.
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When To See A Doctor
A mild case of sciatica will generally resolve over time. However, if the pain is severe, gradually increases, or lasts longer than a week, you should see a doctor.
Seek immediate medical attention if:
- Symptoms began after traumatic injury.
- Sciatic pain is accompanied by fever, nausea, or weight loss.
- Extreme weakness or numbness can be felt in the leg.
- Controlling bladder or bowels movements becomes difficult.
Are Restless Leg Syndrome Multiple Sclerosis Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Plantar Fasciitis Shingles Or Bursitis Related To Sciatica
While all these conditions affect either the spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments or joints and all can cause pain, none are directly related to sciatica. The main causes of these conditions are different. Sciatica only involves the sciatic nerve. That being said, the most similar condition would be carpal tunnel syndrome, which also involves a compression of a nerve.
A final word about sciatica. . . .
Most cases of sciatica do not require surgery. Time and self-care treatment are usually all thats needed. However, if simple self-care treatments do not relieve your pain, see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can confirm the cause of your pain, suggest other treatment options and/or refer you to other spine health specialists if needed.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/25/2020.
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Does Sciatica Ever Go Away
The sciatica pain ususally subsides by itself. In most of the cases the pain lessens within four to eight weeks by following simple measures likes stretching exercises, heat and cold application, usage of over the counter medications like NSAIDS, etc. The other ways in which one can get relief from sciatica pain are as follows:
Is Your Sciatica Pain Worse In The Morning
Back pain plagues an overwhelming amount of the U.S. adult population, with over 31 million Americans struggling with lower back pain at any given moment in the day, and experts estimate that up to 80 percent of the U.S. population is going to or has experienced back pain at some point in their lives. Worldwide, back pain continues to be the leading cause of disability, and it accounts for the loss of 264 million work days in a year.
As serious as it is, back pain is not the result of some terrible epidemic or the growing onset of disease. Most back pain cases are brought on through normal everyday living circumstances and aging most cases of back pain are not caused cancer, fractures, injuries, or inflammatory arthritis . Thankfully, back pain usually goes away. But for the unfortunate few souls where it doesnt remain temporary, back pain can evolve into a debilitating and chronic condition.
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Difficulty Or Impaired Leg Mobility
Individuals with sciatica may find it difficult to walk, stand or sit in due to the pain and other neurological manifestations of sciatica such as weakness or numbness of the lower extremities.
The signs and symptoms listed above may manifest for a couple of weeks or may last for many years. However, it is essential to note that not everyone will experience the same sciatica symptoms because causes of sciatica may differ from one person to another.
When Is Surgery Considered
Spinal surgery is usually not recommended unless you have not improved with other treatment methods such as stretching and medication, your pain is worsening, you have severe weakness in the muscles in your lower extremities or you have lost bladder or bowel control.
How soon surgery would be considered depends on the cause of your sciatica. Surgery is typically considered within a year of ongoing symptoms. Pain that is severe and unrelenting and is preventing you from standing or working and youve been admitted to a hospital would require more aggressive treatment and a shorter timeline to surgery. Loss of bladder or bowel control could require emergency surgery if determined to be cauda equine syndrome.
The goal of spinal surgery for sciatic pain is to remove the pressure on the nerves that are being pinched and to make sure the spine is stable.
Surgical options to relieve sciatica include:
Microdiscectomy: This is a minimally invasive procedure used to remove fragments of a herniated disk that are pressing on a nerve.
- Laminectomy: In this procedure, the lamina that is causing pressure on the sciatic nerve is removed.
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Options For Sciatica Treatment
If you have sciatica, the good news is that there are plenty of viable sciatica treatment options available. And while the condition may not be 100% curable, it’s very possible to treat the symptoms and significantly relieve your pain.
A good first step to take is to see an Atlanta chiropractor. This way, you can receive an evaluation and recommendation for treatment. Many chiropractors can perform not only massage therapy, but spinal adjustments to help align your spine and take some of the pressure off of your sciatic nerve, thus relieving the pain.
Can Chiropractic Cure Sciatica
Actually, chiropractic doesnt cure anything! Only your body can do that. The chiropractic approach to sciatica is to help restore the way your spine works, reducing nerve irritation and revitalizing your own bodys healing ability.
Sciatica often worsens with extended bed rest. Pain pills or muscle relaxers are unable to correct the nerve compression caused by a bulging disc. Physical therapy merely exercises the unstable joints. Surgery often involves cutting away disc tissue or removing bone to make room for the nerve. Fortunately, sciatica often responds well to safe & natural chiropractic care.
Improving joint motion with a series of chiropractic adjustments has produced results for millions. Before and after images of the lower back often show improved disc height and spacing. Many patients report that they can resume their lives and that their symptoms disappear without drugs or surgery.
Your chiropractic doctor is uniquely skilled to evaluate and reduce the most common cause of sciatica nerve pain. Its the natural approach to relief and better health.
Most sciatica patients are delighted with the results they get after weeks or months of care. Naturally, this varies from patient to patient. Many discover that years of neglect have produced spinal instabilities that never fully heal. These patients elect to continue with periodic chiropractic checkups. Its up to you. There is hope!
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How Long Does Sciatica In Pregnancy Last
A 2008 review estimates between 50 and 80 percent of women experience lower back pain in pregnancy, but its highly unlikely to actually be sciatica.
Occasionally the position of your baby can add pressure to the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica. Depending on whether your babys position changes, the pain may last for the remainder of your pregnancy, come and go, or disappear. It should fully resolve after your baby is born.
Sciatica May Come Back
Sciatica usually resolves on its own without treatment within a month or two. However, that doesnt mean its gone for good. If you dont resolve the underlying condition that caused sciatica, it may recur and even develop into a chronic pain condition.
Strengthening and stretching exercises create strong core muscles to support your spine, which takes pressure off the nerves. If youre overweight or obese, losing weight may help, too.
If youre having a flare of sciatica pain, you may be able to control it by alternating cold packs and heating pads. You could also take painkillers and muscle relaxants for relief.
However, if the cause of your recurring sciatica is a slipped or ruptured disc, we may recommend laminotomy with discectomy. During this simple, minimally invasive surgical procedure, we remove the part of the ruptured or herniated disc thats pressing against your sciatic nerve.
Dont let sciatica become a normal part of your life. If you suffer from persistent or chronic sciatica, give us a call today at 833-774-6327 for diagnosis and treatment options. Or, book your appointment online with our convenient form.
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