40% of people will experience sciatica during their life, ranking it one of the most common causes of persistent pain. “People who suffer from acute or chronic back pain tend to be more susceptible to sciatica,” says Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School. “Your risk also rises if you’re obese, if you smoke, or if you’re sedentary.”
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve branches from your low back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Sciatica affects millions of Americans, and it can range from a minor nuisance to a debilitating problem.
Sciatica describes a set of symptoms of an underlying medical condition. The term describes the pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness that starts in the lower back and moves to the large sciatic nerve located in either leg. Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the nerve, acting like a kink in a garden hose. This can happen because of an injury or trauma, but, is often the result of years of bending and sitting for long stretches.
Some symptoms that can occur are inflammation, pain and some numbness. Pain that radiates from your lower (lumbar) spine to your buttock and down the back of your leg is the hallmark of sciatica. You might feel the discomfort almost anywhere along the nerve pathway, but it’s especially likely to follow a path from your low back to your buttock and the back of your thigh and calf. Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness can also be present in the affected leg or even foot.
There are various treatments for sciatica, depending on the severity of the diagnosis. Treatments of sciatica range from rest and stretching exercises to various injections, radiofrequency ablation (RFA), medications, physical therapy, and spinal decompression. Not one treatment is right for everyone, as the underlying reason of sciatica varies from person to person.
Tips to Help Prevent Sciatica
Sciatica is not totally preventable, but there are a few things you can do to help strengthen and protect your back. Regular exercise is key. To keep your back strong focus on your core muscles, the muscles in your abdomen and lower back. These muscles are essential for proper posture and alignment, which, will help to prevent sciatica pain.
Maintaining proper posture when you sit is also important. Choosing a good seat is the first step. Find a seat with good lower back support, armrests, and a swivel base. Keep your knees and hips level. And sometimes keeping a pillow or towel at the small of your back will help maintain its normal curve. Also, be sure to use proper body mechanics. Sitting and standing upright and not slouching. Making sure if you are reading or working it is in front of you, preferably at eye level and avoiding excessive twisting and bending at the hips.
If you stand for long periods, resting one foot on a stool or small box from time to time can help ease the weight of standing. When you lift something heavy it is important to lift with your legs and not your back. That means bending down at the knees while keeping your back in a straight line, not bending forward at the hips. Hold the load close to you. And avoid lifting and twisting simultaneously. If the object is heavy or awkward, find a lifting partner.
To Find Out More
If you are experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling as mentioned above, severe pain in your low back or leg, or pain following an accident, please do not hesitate to reach out to Twin Cities Pain Clinic at 952-841-2345 or twincitiespainclinic.com to talk to a professional today.