The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, the nerve starts from the spinal cord in the lower back then travels down through the hips, buttocks and the back of each leg. “Sciatica” is a term that means an irritation of the sciatic nerve. The nerve can be irritated for several different reasons a few including increased pressure from a disc, a bone spur, tight hip muscles or narrowing of the space between the sides of the back bones. Other common medical terms that cause sciatica include spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, and even pregnancy.
Symptoms of sciatica frequently include pain in the buttock and down the leg, typically on one side. The pain can be only in the buttock or travel as far down as the end of the toes. In addition to pain or sometimes without experiencing pain, some individuals have sensations such as burning, tingling, weakness or numbness down the leg. Depending on the individual the pain may vary from a mild ache to a sharp burning sensation or could even feel like an electric shock going down the leg. The pain is usually aggravated by prolonged sitting, walking, or bending at the waist. It’s important to see your medical doctor immediately if you have symptoms of lower extremity weakness and/or loss of bladder or bowel control.
Risk factors associated with sciatica include:
- Age over 25… Even as early as the mid twenties age-related changes in the spine such as disk herniation, bone spurs and osteoarthritis can be noted.
- Obesity increases the physical stress to the spine because of the increased load.
- Occupations that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive for long periods.
- Prolonged sitting increases loads and stress to your spine, which may be due to a sedentary lifestyle or long work hours at a desk.
- Diabetes which affects the way the body uses blood sugar, increasing the risk of nerve damage.
- Trauma or injury to the lumbar spine from falls or car accidents.
Think you have some of the symptoms? Here are the first 3 steps to feeling better.
- Do NOT sit for longer than 30 minutes without taking at least a 60 second (1 minute) rest break. Even if you just stand up in front of your chair for 1 minute.
- Find a comfortable resting position lying down. You can be on your side, with knees slightly bent and a pillow between your legs or on your back with pillows propped up around you for support. The better you can rest/sleep without pain, the faster your body can heal. Everyone heals the most when we are sleeping or fully at rest.
- Stretch your back. Start with your neck, then move to stretching your middle back and shoulders, then gently stretch your lower back and legs. The directions that feel the tightest are the ones that you need to stretch the most. If the stretch feels loose and flexible… you need to practice a different direction or area of the spine. Stretching promotes blood flow and blood flow brings nutrients to heal and takes away inflammation cells!
Treatment for sciatica can include medications to relieve pain and inflammation, but ALL medications have side effects. Physical therapy is a NATURAL solution that does not have adverse side effects. Physical therapists can give you a rehabilitation program to decrease your current pain and help prevent any recurrent injuries. The goals for physical therapy are to improve posture, increase flexibility and strengthen your back/core. Some key things to remember to prevent sciatica from recurring are to exercise/stretch regularly, maintain proper posture, and use good body mechanics. Call us today at (303) 952-5053 if you are experiencing any back pain. We can give you advice over the phone and help you start feeling better now!