There is a nerve in the body called the sciatic nerve, the irritation of this nerve causes sciatica. Sciatica is a painful condition in the lower region of the spine, it is usually mistaken for back pain but sciatica does not deal only with the back. What then is sciatica exactly? How do you differentiate it from normal back pain? How long does sciatica last? You will find the answer to these questions as you read on.
It may interest you to know that the widest and longest nerve in your body is the sciatic nerve. It goes from your lower back down your buttocks, to your legs and ends below your knee. The function of this nerve includes control of some muscles found in your lower leg. It also carries sensations to the foot skin and a large portion of the leg. Sciatica is a symptom and not a condition. It comes to show that there is a problem with the sciatic nerve. Individuals who are within the age of 30 to 40 have higher chances of getting sciatica. Also, people who are required to lift heavy objects for an extended period are at risk. The next category of people at risk of this symptom is those who stay in a sitting position and do not engage in physical activities.
What Causes Sciatica
Sciatica is like an alarm drawing your attention to other medical conditions. A very common cause of sciatica is a herniated or slipped disk. Your spinal column has three parts: Vertebra, nerves, and disks.
The resilient and strong material called cartilage to make up these disks. They serve as a cushion between the vertebrae and permits the flexibility of the spine. A disk is herniated when it is removed from its place causing sciatic nerve pressure. Other possible conditions that can cause sciatica, include:
- Stenosis of lumbar spinal – this is when your spinal cord located in the lower region of your back is narrowed.
- Spondylolisthesis – this condition involves the slipping forward of the disk from over to below the vertebra.
- Spine tumors – this can cause compression of the sciatic nerve root.
- Infection and injury – these affect the spine ultimately.
- Cauda equina – this is a rare syndrome but a severe one. It affects the lower spinal cord nerves and requires instant medical attention.
How Long Does Sciatica Last?
The feeling of a sharp shooting pain around the sciatic nerve symbolize the presence of sciatica. Other symptoms can be leg numbness along the nerve path, feeling of a tingling sensation in your toes and feet. Sciatica usually lasts for six weeks.
There is acute and chronic sciatica and each has its treatment method.
Acute sciatica involves mild symptoms that only stay for four to eight weeks. This kind does not require medical attention and it is usually responsive to self-treatment such as:
- Using over the counter medications for relieving pain like ibuprofen.it is advisable to review your options here because not all pain relief medication may suit you.
- Carrying out exercises like light stretching or walking
- Using cold or hot compression packs can help reduce pain.
When the symptoms stay as long as four to eight weeks then it is most likely chronic sciatica. There will be a need for medical treatment in addition to self-care.
- Physical therapy
- Therapy for cognitive behavior teaches chronic pain management.
If the patient is unresponsive then the portion of surgery comes in. Two types of surgery can be done here:
- Lumbar laminectomy – this has to do with widening the lower back spinal cord to decrease the nerve pressures.
- Discectomy – complete or partial removal of the herniated disk.
Doctors diagnose this symptom by reviewing the person’s medical history. He may also ask the person to begin the basic exercises which help in stretching the sciatic nerve. While doing this exercise and you experience sharp shooting pain along the leg it indicates that there is an issue with that nerve.
Imaging tests like MRI or X-ray may be needed to accurately identify what is causing the compression of the sciatic nerve.
A pregnant woman can experience pain similar to sciatica. There is an estimated fifty to eighty percent of females go through back pain when they are pregnant. This can be due to the hormones released in a woman’s body during pregnancy. These hormones influence the loosening up of ligaments which is a potential cause of back pain. However, it does not usually take place during pregnancy. Of course, there will be some cases but that is not the norm.
Most times sciatica goes away by itself without any external contribution. An estimated half percent of people with sciatica recover fully within six weeks. There are preventive measures that can be applied in sciatica. These generally talk about lifestyle changes, it is a good way of reducing your chances of having sciatica. Another preventive measure is exercising regularly and ensuring that your posture is always right whether you are standing, sitting, or lifting objects. Avoided slouching or other harmful positions and when sitting do so upright.
The next time you experience pain in your lower back, don’t be too quick to generalize it like back pain. Remember that this condition may be alerting you to other medical issues thus these pains should not be ignored particularly if it is recurring. See a doctor as soon as you can but don’t panic, the severe cases of sciatica are rare.