If you’ve been experiencing a burning sensation or an electric-like jolt of pain that starts in your lower back and extends down into your buttock and thigh, or even as far as your calf or foot, the culprit may be sciatica.
Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, ranks as one of the most common forms of chronic pain among men and women alike. In fact, up to 40% of adults can expect to develop this bothersome and potentially debilitating problem at some point in their lives, particularly as they get older.
While it’s normal to experience a few more aches and pains as you age, there’s nothing normal about sciatica, which can leave you in perpetual discomfort or simply stop you in your tracks.
Luckily, our team at Apple Medical Centers offers a full scope of advanced solutions for sciatic nerve pain that can help you resolve your problem for good. Here’s what you should know.
Sciatica causes and complications
Your sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in your body. Rooted in your lumbar spine (lower back), it branches off into each hip and extends all the way down through your legs and into your feet, giving you the ability to feel and control your lower body.
Sciatica occurs when something compresses or irritates your sciatic nerve where it’s rooted to your spine. Apart from producing radiating pain or ongoing lower back discomfort, sciatica can also cause constant or sporadic feelings of numbness or weakness anywhere along the nerve path.
The first step in attaining effective, long-term relief for sciatica is establishing its underlying cause. Common causes of sciatica include:
- Bulging or ruptured lumbar disc
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lumbar stenosis (spinal narrowing)
- Piriformis syndrome
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction
Sciatica usually begins gradually. If symptoms remain mild or slowly diminish, it’s possible that the problem will simply resolve itself. If your symptoms do worsen over time, however, as is often the case, it’s important to seek care so that persistent sciatica doesn’t become a long-term or permanent problem.
Fortunately, sciatica often responds well to a combination of gentle, noninvasive solutions and targeted therapies.
Rest and ice therapy can work wonders in helping you reduce discomfort, relieve stiffness, and improve your range of motion. Performing specific physical therapy exercises and stretches can help alleviate nerve-related pressure in your lumbar spine. Other helpful solutions include:
- Therapeutic massage
- Therapeutic bracing
- Chiropractic care
- Decompression therapy
Depending on the underlying cause of your problem, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy may also help. This groundbreaking therapy, which harnesses the healing power of growth factors to promote rapid tissue regeneration, is a natural and effective solution for many types of chronic pain, including sciatica.
Sciatica recurrence prevention
Once you’ve resolved your sciatica problem, you’ll want to prevent its recurrence. Although you can’t always keep it from coming back, these are concrete steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood that it will.
Regular exercise is key to preventing sciatica recurrence. Getting fit helps take pressure off your lower back by keeping your body weight under control and strengthening your core, which is the group of muscles in your abdomen and lower back that help you maintain proper posture and spinal alignment.
Watch your weight
Not only does being overweight increase your risk of sciatica, it also makes it harder to heal when the problem does occur. Maintaining a healthy body weight helps reduce pressure on your sciatic nerve by minimizing inflammation around your spine and throughout your body.
Avoid prolonged sitting
Even if you have a desk job that requires you to sit for long stretches of time, make an effort to avoid sitting for long periods of time. Prolonged sitting increases pressure on the discs and ligaments in your lower back, boosting your chances of a sciatica recurrence. To reduce your risk, take frequent breaks to stand up or walk around.
Lift with your legs
To avoid triggering a sciatica recurrence when you lift something heavy, use proper body mechanics and lift the weight with your legs, not your lower back. Hold the load close to your body, keep your back straight, and bend only at your knees. Always avoid twisting your upper body as you lift.