El Paso, TX. Chiropractor Dr. Alex Jimenez takes a look at sciatica.
The pain shoots down your leg—burning, tingling, almost electric. Anyone who’s felt it knows that this is the hallmark symptom of sciatica. But did you know that there’s more to sciatica than just leg pain? And what about the best treatment—should you get plenty of rest or join boot camp? Get the answers with this slideshow. It’s your quick reference for all things sciatica—from what causes it to how to get rid of it.
Table of Contents
Sciatica Isn’t A Condition, Disorder or Disease. Though the pain may certainly warrant such a title. Sciatica is actually a group of symptoms. It involves the sciatic nerve, which is the longest and largest nerve in your body. The sciatic nerve is made from several nerve roots in your spine that merge and travel through your buttocks. It then extends down to your knee, where smaller nerves branch out from it and travel to your feet. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or aggravated in some way. So what causes that? Read on to learn more.
Have You Done A Lot Of Heavy Lifting Lately? Perhaps with poor posture? Heavy lifting can cause a disc in your low back to bulge or herniate, and that can pinch your sciatic nerve. Lumbar herniated discs are the most common cause of sciatica. Herniated discs aren’t caused only by heavy lifting—the effects of aging on your spine can also cause herniated discs. Though a herniated disc is the most common sciatica cause, it isn’t the only one. Spinal stenosis, injury or trauma, and even pregnancy are other common culprits.
You likely understand the pain of sciatica it can shoot from your low back down your legs, sometimes into your feet. Burning, numbness, and tingling are also common sciatica symptoms. You may find that sitting or walking can become painful chores—and even a cough or sneeze can cause your pain to flare up.
Sciatica affects people in different ways depending on the root cause. Some have pain in their feet, while others have intense pain above the knee. That’s why you should not only pay special attention to what your symptoms are but also where they are. This will help your doctor understand what’s causing your sciatica and, in turn, recommend the best treatment.
In some cases, the only thing you need to reduce your sciatica pain is time and over-the-counter medication. To help reduce inflammation and pain, you’ll want to choose non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Advil and Aleve are brand name examples of NSAIDs. You can also try alternating heat and cold packs.
Bed rest might be best for a cold, but it won’t treat your sciatica any faster. In fact, it might slow down the healing process. Most studies support staying active with mild exercise. This doesn’t mean you should spend hours in a gym—that would only aggravate your sciatica. Think gentle stretches and soothing movements. Need a place to start? Watch our sciatica exercise video series.
You should talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend prescription medications or epidural steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation. Or you may want to consult with a chiropractor or physical therapist. These professionals use specific therapies and techniques to reduce your sciatica pain.
But if your pain just won’t go away—even after using a number of non-surgical treatments—then spine surgery might be the best option for you. Having surgery for sciatica is a big deal, so make sure you gather as much information as possible on your procedure and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions.
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