Sciatica


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of sciatica

The World Health Organisation (WHO) records have shown that nearly 50% of the global population suffers from musculoskeletal disorders or pains. Many of these disorders are associated with spinal cord injuries that may or may not arise from problems of the central and the peripheral nervous systems. Sciatica is one such disorder that causes lower back pain and pain in the extremities. It is one of the primary spinal defects and around 90% of the time, the disease occurs due to dislocated discs. It may also manifest as a birth defect in many cases. At present sciatica is one of the primary contributors to the increasing global burden of spinal cord diseases and back pain.

 

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a type of pain that affects the sciatic nerve and affects the lower back and the legs. It begins as a sharp shooting pain near the lower back and slowly radiates to the lower extremities.

The pain mostly arises from an excess pressure on the sciatic nerve due to muscle strain, bone spur, and herniated discs.Typically, the pain is unilateral that is, only one side of the lower body is affected.

Further investigations have also revealed that this pain arises from sciatica in most cases.

 

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by a number of physical and environmental factors. The commonly studied causes are given below-

  • Spinal disc herniation: Sometimes the gel-like centre of any spinal disc can rupture through any weak spot in the disc wall and exert pressure on the nerves. This causes disc tear and a swelling of the surrounding tissues. The maximum pressure is felt on the sacral and the lumbar nerve roots, that manifests as lower back pain.
  • Stenosis: Compression of the spinal cord and the associated nerves may occur in many cases due to constriction of the bony canals in the spine. This condition may arise mainly due to lumbar spinal stenosis where the cauda equina, spinal cord and the sciatic nerve roots get compressed. There is another condition which may give rise to sciatica pain. It is known as spondylolisthesis that causes inflammation of the spinal cord and reduces available space for it. Pinching and irritation of the nerves occur in this case.
  • Piriformis syndrome: People having this syndrome have spasms or tightening of the piriformis muscle, which arises from overuse or trauma. In 17% of these cases, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscles and not below it. This gives rise to compression and muscle spasms. Two situations may occur in this case. One is when the nerve root itself remains in normal condition with no herniation of discs. The other one is known as “wallet sciatica” as the wallet presses on the buttock muscles and the sciatic nerves when the person sits down.
  • Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the erosive degeneration of the joints, cartilages, soft tissues and bony outgrowths of the knee, ankle and other joints of the body due to age. In many patients, the discs may get dried out and may shrink. Mild to severe tears may take place in the disc wall which manifests as pain at the base of the spinal cord. An abnormal thickening of the ligaments, enlargement of the joints and formation of bone spurs may take place in due course of time that may aggravate the existing conditions.
  • Spondylolisthesis: In this condition, the patients may experience a weakness or stress fracture in the facet joints. This may cause a vertebra to slip out of position and pinch the neighboring nerves.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the weight of the fetus on the spinal cord causes pinching of the sciatic nerves and the other nerve roots. This may give rise to cauda equina syndrome which is accompanied by pain in the hips and the feet, loss of bladder and bowel control and muscle weakness.

Other risk factors for sciatica include but are not limited to –

  • Aging
  • Obesity
  • Occupational hazards
  • Long periods of sitting or standing
  • Diabetes
  • Presence of tumors (exerts stress on the nerve roots and the spinal cord)
  • Problems in the sacroiliac joint

What are the main signs and symptoms of sciatica?

Sciatica is characterized by a number of signs and symptoms which may often mimic the symptoms of other diseases. Hence a clear identification of the following warning signs is necessary in order to detect the disease at an early stage–

  • Pain and pinprick sensation on the exterior portion of the calf
  • The pain may extend till the space between the little and fourth toes
  • Difficulty walking on the heels or toes
  • Burning sensation that starts at the back of the thigh and the calf down to the heels
  • Stiffness in the legs
  • Pain in the buttock after long periods of standing or sitting

What are the different types of sciatica?

Sciatic pain is classified into the following types-

  • Acute sciatic pain: It has a sudden onset and heals within a very short time. It results from injuries to the tissues, muscles, ligaments, discs and the nerves.
  • Chronic sciatic pain: It persists for more than 3-4 months and is of idiopathic nature. Chronic pain generally worsens with activities.

What are the different diagnostic tests for sciatica?

The most popular test for sciatica is the Lasegue’s sign which is done by asking the patient to raise the leg between 30 and 70 degrees. Other imaging tests such as CT scan and MRI scan may also prove to be effective. 

 

What treatments are available for sciatica?

Treatment of sciatica involves administering pain relieving drugs such as NSAIDs (no-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or muscle-relaxants.

Physiotherapy is has been shown to be effective in case of sciatica.

Alternating between hot and cold compressions can also be helpful.  Additionally, the patient can also refer to acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractors, and special massages to get rid of the symptoms.  In extreme cases, where the pain is unbearable and prolongs for longer period of time, then surgical intervention might be required. The surgery is aimed at decreasing the pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Sciatic pain can be prevented by following basic steps such as maintaining the right kind of posture during sitting, standing, and sleeping, not sitting for too long, having a physically active lifestyle. Always practice safe lifting techniques. Use ergonomically designed chairs which provide proper support to the spine. Maintain a healthy body weight and refrain from engaging in smoking and drinking.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Do stretching exercises regularly. You should be stretching your hamstring muscles, hip muscles, and piriformis muscles to relieve the pain.
  • Alternate between hot and cold packs will facilitate proper blood flow to the area of pain.
  • If the symptoms don’t go away gradually within 12 weeks, discuss the issue with your doctor.
Don'ts
  • Completely rely on medications for healing the pain. Go for physiotherapy and follow corrective exercises.
  • Stop exercising altogether. Just try not to over-exert yourself during the physical activities.
  • Lift heavy objects or remain sitting in one place for long.

 

 

 

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SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
Poop chart: Top things you didn’t you your poop could reveal about you Bristol poop chart was designed during the 1990s in order to help doctors identify various types of poops…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide Can only meat-eaters enjoy delicious juicy steaks and burgers? With seitan, the best meat substitute available today,even vegans…
How can berberine supplements help you live longer and healthier? Berberine is a turmeric look-alike herbal extract that is credited with numerous health benefits ranging from diabetes cure…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
CERULOPLASMIN- triple marker
Triple Marker Test A triple marker test is an important prenatal test that is performed to detect the presence of chromosomal…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
AUTOIMMUNE HEPATITIS liver
Hepatitis Profile A hepatitis profile or a hepatitis panel is a blood test that checks for markers of hepatitis infection…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
10 reasons why you should up your selenium intake Selenium, though a trace mineral, is very much integral to your health. Find out how much selenium intake…
waterchestnut
Water Chestnuts: The tastiest ways to include this healthy tuber in your diet Water chestnut is not a nut after all. It is a tuber (much like the potatoes) growing close…
Vagus nerve: 7 health benefits of stimulating the “gut-brain” connection As a matter of fact, there are two vagus nerves namely the left and the right but is…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
hemoglobin variant analysis
Hemoglobin Variant Analysis Hemoglobin variant analysis is a blood test that is used to detect the presence of hemoglobin variants which…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
fructosamine test
Fructosamine Test A fructosamine test measures blood sugar glucose content. Fructosamine level can indicate blood sugar level in past 2-3…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
thyroxine t4 test
T4 (Thyroxine) Hormone Test The T4 or thyroxine blood test is an important diagnostic tool that gives a clear picture of how…
Moringa drink
Moringa: This could be the most nutrient-dense food known to us! Moringa is a lush green tree brimming with over 90 essential nutrients required for a healthy mind and…
Agave nectar: The bitter truth about this sweetener revealed Agave nectar is considered to be sweeter than the normal table sugar and even contains higher amounts of…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that bromelain can bring…
Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
Exercises or diet? Find out the healthiest way to gain weight Tired of being called skinny all the time? Looking for healthy ways to beef up? Why not try…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
Carb Cycling: Weighing the pros vs the cons of this diet routine Completely discarding carbs from your life will do you more harm than good. Read more about carb cycling,…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
biopsy procedure
Biopsy Biopsy is a procedure of studying a live tissue sample collected from a specific organ for diagnosing a…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
lipase test
Lipase Test A lipase test is a blood test performed to quantitatively measure the level of the enzyme lipase in…
blood ketone test
Blood Ketone (D3HB) Test The Blood Ketone Test measures and monitors the levels of ketone in the blood which is usually performed…
Rheumatoid Arthritis xray
Arthritis Profile Arthritis profile is a panel of primarily blood tests used to detect the presence of arthritis or check…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…

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