Sciatica: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Danh NgoLow Back Pain, Pain Relief Division

Are you experiencing pain, numbness, or weakness in the area going from your lower back all the way down your leg? And does it get worse when you move, cough, or sneeze? Then, you might have sciatica.

This is a fairly common ailment that affects many Americans each year, with varying degrees of intensity. If your sciatica is mild, chances are that it will go away on its own over time. But if you’ve been battling with sciatica for a while, it’s now time to do something about it once and for all.

You’ve come to the right place: keep reading and we’ll give you the lowdown on sciatica. We’ll explain what it is, what causes it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it from re-occurring.

What Exactly Is Sciatica Pain?

The term “sciatica” refers to pain in a very specific area that goes from your lower back down to your leg, foot, and toes, passing through your glutes. This occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed or irritated.

The type of pain, as well as its severity, caused by sciatica, can vary. Some people experience a pins-and-needles kind of pain and numbness, while others may feel in real agony.

Sciatica shouldn’t be confused with lower back pain. While the lumbar area can be painful in people who suffer from sciatica, localized lower back pain with no other symptoms is usually not enough for a diagnosis of sciatica. Also, unlike lower back pain, sciatica pain generally focuses on one side of the body.

What Causes the Sciatic Nerve to Get Inflamed and Sore?

There are several causes that can contribute to the inflammation and soreness of the sciatic nerve. One of the most common is a herniated lumbar disc, which happens when soft tissue between your spinal bones pushes out of position. This tends to involve people who regularly lift heavy weights or operate heavy machinery as part of their job or daily activity. 

Similarly, sciatica can often be the result of a back injury, which people can suffer while playing sports. Pregnancy is another condition that causes the inflammation of the sciatic nerve. This happens especially if the expectant mother doesn’t exercise enough and spends long periods of time sitting down.

However, if you are pregnant and experience pain that is similar to sciatica, you might want to ask your doctor to assess you, as there are other and more common causes of lower back pain in pregnancy.

Other, less common, causes of sciatica include diabetes, obesity, and aging. Even rarer instances of sciatica are caused by spinal tumors. As we mentioned earlier, not all sciatica-related pains are very intense or debilitating, which means that not every sciatica sufferer will need to get medical attention.

So, what can you do to either ease your sciatica numbness or treat a pain that’s starting to prevent you from going about your daily life as usual? Take a look at the next section.

How Can Sciatica Be Treated?

There are several ways to treat your sciatica, and they all depend on the severity of the pain that you are experiencing. If you consider your pain to be mild and fairly manageable, then you can try taking some anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, regularly for a few days.

In parallel, do some simple exercises to help ease your sciatica soreness, and consider making some changes to the way you sleep at night. Placing a small, firm pillow in between your legs and sleeping on your side, for example, might help to alleviate the symptoms of sciatica.

Bear in mind though, that even the most harmless cases of sciatica might last up to six weeks. So, be consistent with your at-home remedies, and be very patient.

And if your pain doesn’t seem to fade after more than six weeks, then it’s time to see a doctor. A doctor might be able to prescribe some stronger painkillers as well as refer you to attend some physiotherapy sessions.

Remember that, despite the global pandemic is still ongoing and causing major disruption across healthcare providers, it’s still crucial that you get checked and treated for non-coronavirus related ailments.

Something like sciatica, for example, could get increasingly worse with time if not treated promptly and correctly, so take action if self-care remedies are failing to bring any relief.  

And what if things aren’t getting better even after seeing your doctor or physiotherapist? Then, it might be necessary to intervene surgically or with an injection. This is the very last resort, though, as most cases of sciatica improve after medical treatment.

Is It Possible to Prevent Sciatica?

Yes and no. There are certain things you can do in order to minimize the chance of having sciatica, or having it again in the future. For example, you should make sure to stay as active as possible, eat well, and maintain a healthy BMI, and keep a good posture, especially when sitting down.

Nonetheless, a sudden accident or injury can make your sciatica pain come back, which means that it’s not possible to fully prevent it. Try to do what you can to make sure that you keep the chances of getting sciatica to a minimum, and act quickly in case it returns.

Don’t Let Sciatica Pain Stop You From Living Your Life

If you are suffering from sciatica, however intense the pain is, make sure you do something to alleviate the symptoms as soon as you can. Start with simple, at-home exercises and stretches, and take some over-the-counter drugs.

In case the pain gets worse, or doesn’t improve, then you should see a doctor and consider options like physiotherapy and stronger painkillers. Only in very rare cases, you might need an injection or surgery to eliminate your sciatic pain completely.

Do you want to find out how we can help you overcome your sciatica? Then contact us today, and we’ll be delighted to support you on your recovery journey.