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The Skinny on Sciatica

Written by Courteney

Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:44 pm

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Sciatica (or sciatica-like) pain affects millions of Americans. It is often misunderstood, so we wanted to take a look at the facts:

  • Sciatica is not an official “condition”, but rather a term that describes a collection of symptoms related to irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
  • The medical term for sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy.
  • Sciatica doesn’t present the same way in everyone. Many people have different symptoms and different degrees of pain (mildly irritating to severely debilitating). For example, when the L5 vertebrae is pinched, the sufferer will often feel numbness of the foot.
  • Common symptoms include: a sensation of burning or tingling in the leg or hip, weakness and a harsh, continuous pain on one side of the lower body.
  • Conditions that may lead to sciatica include: spinal problems such as stenosis, an abnormal gait, spondylolisthesis, tumors, herniated discs, pressure from pregnancy or excess weight, or nerve trauma or injury.
  • The sciatic nerves are the longest in the body spanning from the lower back all the way down to the bottom of the leg on each side.
  • Sciatica can be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes other back problems such as sacroiliac joint pain is misdiagnosed as sciatica because they have similar symptoms. Proper diagnosis is difficult, but essential for effective treatment.
  • Sciatica is best treated non-invasively and not usually with too many medications until physiotherapy or another type of therapy is tried first. Surgery is necessary in some cases when severe sciatica is definitively identified and cannot be helped by other approaches.
  • Regular exercise and a healthy diet may help decrease your chances of developing problems with your sciatic nerve as a healthy lifestyle promotes better overall health.
  • If you’re not in too much pain, exercise can actually help ease the discomfort of sciatica pain in the short term. A sedentary life can contribute to back problems.
  • While it is most often caused by a problem with the discs, sciatica can also be non-structural or idiopathic by nature. Sometimes psychoemotional factors come into play during the healing process.

That concludes our look at sciatica. Thanks for visiting DocChat! Remember, our board-certified doctors are standing by 24/7/365 with any medical concerns you may have!

 

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2 thoughts on “The Skinny on Sciatica

    1. Hi there, Mike! Thanks so much for checking out our blog, we’re so happy you found the sciatica article helpful. This is in no way medical advice, but based on my research here are some exercises that may help with sciatica pain (pending a doctor’s approval): http://www.livestrong.com/article/435460-machine-exercises-for-the-sciatic-nerve/, and as far as equipment goes, physiotherapists are the best when it comes to that kind of thing. I know that TENS machines often help people with certain types of pain, and can be found at most physiotherapy clinics or portable ones can be purchased. My dad finds them good for his back, but he doesn’t specifically have sciatica. The best thing would be to talk to a doctor about what could work for your specific situation before trying any of this though. Thanks so much! We hope you visit our blog again soon, Mike! :)

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