The sciatic nerve begins as nerve roots that begin at the spinal cord and move out towards the lower region of the back. From there, it moves downward through the back of the leg, ankle and foot. Sciatic nerve pain or sciatica occur when the nerve endings or roots that head back to the sciatic nerve become irritated. In many people, this causes a pain that can cause tingling, numbness or a sharp stinging sensation.
According to physicians, a herniated disc in the spine is one of the most common causes of sciatica. This occurs when a ruptured or bulging disc presses against the nerve roots leading to the sciatic nerve. However, sciatica can also be caused by a pinched nerve, arthritis or even bone spurs.
The most common symptom of sciatic nerve pain occurs when pain in your back moves downward into your leg and through your foot. Certain sensations including tingling, numbness and overall limb weakness are fairly common symptoms as well. Certain movements such as sitting or standing for a long period of time can aggravate these symptoms. Utilizing movements that extend the spine such as lying down or walking may actually alleviate these symptoms.
In order to diagnose sciatica, your physician will gather your medical history and perform a physical examination. During this process, your physician may ask particular questions that will narrow down the type and location of the pain in order to better determine if it is indeed sciatica. In some cases, your doctor may want to complete an MRI to detect the source of your sciatic nerve pain. There may be other tests that your physician recommends that you undergo and in some cases you may be referred to a specialist.
For the majority of individuals, sciatica will improve with time. Initially, specific exercises that target the sciatic nerve and anti-inflammatory medicine will help to reduce pain. Other effective pain relief methods include avoiding sitting or standing for extended periods of time and the intermittent use of a heating pad or a cold compress. During this time, it is important for an individual to not overexert themselves. Physical activity should be limited and done in short intervals to decrease the chances of further injury. Too much physical activity may actually delay the recovery time period.
If your pain continues, it is important that you consult with your physician as there may be other causes to the nerve irritation. Your physician may refer you to a specialist who may recommend other treatment methods such as injections, physical therapy and in severe cases, surgery may have to occur.
There are some easy and natural ways to prevent sciatica. For example, basic lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can improve sciatic health. Consuming certain fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins that reduce inflammation, boost your immune system and reduce swelling are important to your sciatic health. Other important factors that contribute to a healthy sciatic nerve include proper posture, maintaining a healthy weight and muscle relaxation techniques can help limit the effects of sciatic nerve pain.