Sciatica And Its Symptoms
The sciatic nerve is the longest individual nerve in the human body. It runs from the base of the spine, through the buttocks and down the back of each leg. Any distortion of this nerve can result in a condition called sciatica. Sufferers quite often experience back pain, though it can occur at any point along the nerve. Numbness and muscle weakness in the legs and feet is often a common symptom in people suffering from sciatica. It is also normal for the pain to only affect one side of the lower body although occasionally it can spread over both legs and throughout the whole of the buttock area. Some individuals will experience infrequent pain whilst for others it is constant and severe; if the sciatica symptoms last for longer than six weeks it is classed as chronic.
What causes Sciatica?
Often a slipped disc can be the cause of the pain. The discs between the vertebrae in the spinal column contain a gel like substance which can leak from the discs if the outer layer becomes worn. Very often this wear can be caused by over exerting the spine. Trauma caused through an accident, such as a car crash, heavy lifting or even sitting for a prolonged period of time can increase pressure on the discs. If the gel like substance does leak from the disc it may come into contact with a nerve root within the spine. Unfortunately the nerve roots that are most at risk from this type of activity cause pain along the sciatic nerve. Posture can also result in back pain. Poor posture can add significant pressure to the spine so learning to improve it may prove vital in overcoming painful symptoms.
How can Sciatica be treated?
Whilst it may be the last thing patients feel like doing, they are advised to continue being as active as possible. The aim is to strengthen the lower back muscles to provide as much support to the area as possible. Sometimes steroid injections or even surgery may be necessary to relieve the symptoms of Sciatica. However, physiotherapy could help. By strengthening a patient’s core muscles, much more support is provided to the spine. A trained physiotherapist can coach individuals to perform several simple exercises which should retrain core muscles. Physiotherapists will also be able to explain the importance of posture and provide training for improving it. Physio may be uncomfortable to begin with but the retraining of the important muscles is an essential part of the road to reducing the symptoms. Walking and gentle stretches can also help to mobilise the back and therefore strengthen it.
Sciatica affects approximately 40% of the population at some point during the course of their lives. Whilst some people may mistake subtler symptoms for normal back pain or sprain injuries, the fact remains that looking after one’s spine is vital for good health. If you were slumping over the desk reading this I hope you’re sitting up now!
This post was contributed by Dan Hart of the London Physio Centre – expert physiotherapists in London, with experience in treating a wide range of conditions including sciatica. For more information on sciatica or on physio in London, you can visit the website at http://www.londonphysiocentre.co.uk/sciatica.htm