The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It starts at the back of your pelvis running down your backside, down the back of your legs all the way to your feet. Because this nerve is so incredibly long it can have a tendency to cause a lot of problems and pain for you.
The effects of a problematic sciatic nerve would be pain that can be constant and possibly shooting across the lower back or down the leg, tightness in the back and legs and numbness.
The sciatic nerve is the nerve that comes out of the spinal cord from the lower back. It is formed by all of the nerve roots. If that nerve were to become pinched or have pressure on it, or if it has suffered some irritation, your body reacts by exhibiting pain, weakness, tingling or numbness. This kind of pain can in fact be debilitating for many people. The pain can last as long as a few months if left untreated.
The pain can actually continually get worse and you could feel pain by doing very simple bodily functions such as sneezing, coughing or laughing. Some everyday activities that can also make the sciatica worse would be activities such as bending backwards or standing for long periods of time.
Sciatica doesn’t so much affect the back itself but the pain usually occurs in the general area of the lower back. It can cause pain down the legs and into your feet. Some other symptoms of sciatica may even be muscle weakness and loss of reflexes in the tendons.
Some of the not so typical causes of sciatica may be that of the following: Pregnancy, when the weight of the baby causes pressure on the nerve; unusual growth in the spine; spinal injury; and infection.
The cause of sciatica that is seen by most doctors and chiropractors would be that of a slipped or possibly herniated disc. To understand how this happens you must first understand how the spine is built. The spine itself is bone, which we call vertebrae. The vertebrae protect the nerves and it’s crucial that they do so. In between each of the vertebrae is a disc called a fibrocartilage cushion. This cushion has a gel-like substance inside of it.
Sometimes due to injury or even sitting in the wrong position for long periods of time, this disc can split or bulge and thereby cause pressure on the nerve. These gel-like discs tend to get harder as we age so it’s more likely that they get damaged in our later years.
There are medical physical tests that can be done to diagnose whether you have sciatica or not. A simple test that a medical professional can do with you is to have to lay flat on your back, then lift your leg up in the air straight in front of you. If you have sciatica this motion alone may cause excruciating pain. The doctor may also ask you to flex your foot while raised. That can also initiate the pain that is caused by the problem nerve.
In most cases when you start having problem with your sciatic nerve you would make an appointment to see your doctor or chiropractor. However, in certain circumstances it is advised to seek emergency help. If you lose control of your bladder or bowels; if you have numbness in your buttocks and your lower back and legs, or if you feel weakness in your leg and foot that could cause you to stumble, then you would want to seek urgent care.
There are certain ways you can prevent sciatica. One thing to be aware of is the way that you sit. You should maintain good posture with your feet on the floor or elevated slightly and not sit on one leg with it bent beneath you. This position pulls on the spine and can cause sciatica. Another tip is to make sure when you lift objects that you take your time and lift properly with your legs and not with your back. Make sure you get regular exercise that is low impact for you, such as swimming or walking.
Whenever you realise that a problem with your sciatica or your back exists, it’s imperative that you seek a professional to help diagnose and cure the problem as soon as possible so that it does not worsen.
By Geoff Roy
Geoff Roy provides advice on back pain and sciatica treatment.