Sciatica and the Sciatic Nerve

Sciatica is a condition that causes pain which radiates along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve extends from the lower back to the hips and buttocks and down each leg. The condition usually only affects one side of the body. Sciatica may also be known as Sciatic nerve pain, sciatic nerve dysfunction, or sciatic neuritis. There are millions of people who suffer from sciatica in the United States every year.

Sciatica and the Sciatic Nerve

What causes sciatica? People develop sciatica as a result of the sciatic nerve being pinched. This usually happens as a result of a herniated disk in the spine or by an overgrowth of bone on the vertebrae. In some cases, people by develop sciatica as a result of having diabetes. Some people may also develop the condition as a result of a tumor that causes the nerve to be compressed.

There are a number of risk factors that can increase your risk for developing sciatica. The risk factors for sciatica include the following:

·         Age. The most common causes of sciatica are herniated disks and bone spurs, which are spinal changes that occur with age.

·         Obesity. Excess body weight increases the amount of stress on your spine.

·         Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of nerve damage.

·         Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than people who are physically active.

·         Job. A job that requires you heavy lifting or puts excess stress on your spine may increase your risk for sciatica.

While people who develop sciatica most often recover from the condition, people can still develop complications if they leave the condition untreated. If sciatica is left untreated, people can develop complications that can cause permanent nerve damage. It is important to see your doctor right away if you experience a loss of feeling in the affected leg, weakness in the affected leg, or a loss of bowel or bladder function.

Treatment for sciatica may include medications, physical therapy, steroid injections, or surgery. Your doctor may prescribe you medications for sciatica such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants, or anti-seizure medications. Physical therapy includes exercises to improve posture, strengthen the back muscles, and improve flexibility. Corticosteroids may be injected to reduce pain. And surgery is only done when the compressed nerve causes significant loss of bladder or bowel control, weakness, or intense pain that doesn’t go away.