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Demystifying Sciatica

What is sciatica? Sciatica is the official name given to a pain in the leg, foot, or buttock, brought on by a form of irritation to the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the entire body.


Is this likely? Or is your sciatica only minor? Knowing the answers to these sciatica profile questions helps to dispel your fears and frustrations about sciatica. You can then relax knowing with confidence you do not need to be scared of your sciatica.


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 sciatic nerve diagram communityThe discs which cushion the vertebrae in the lower back become progressively thinner and harder as we get older. This stresses the lower back and often causes a variety of lower back pain disorders, including sciatica.

Other medications like Corticosteroids taken orally or by injection are sometimes prescribed for more severe back and leg pain because of their very powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Corticosteroids also have side effects and the pros and cons of taking them should be fully discussed with your doctor.

Spinal stenosis is the name given to the narrowing of the nerve channel (vertebral canal) of the spine. This narrowing causes compression of either the spinal cord within the vertebral canal, or the nerve roots that exit the spinal cord. People with spinal stenosis experience sciatic pain symptoms in the legs and feet. It usually results from degenerative arthritis causing a narrowing of the spaces in the vertebral canal. Manual workers are more prone to developing symptoms of spinal stenosis but it seldom affects people under 30 years of age - unless it is due to traumatic injury to the vertebrae.

The spine is made up of a series of connected bones called "vertebrae." Spondylolisthesis or isthmic spondylolisthesis occurs when a cracked vertebra slips over the vertebra below it. Poor posture and curvature of the back or weak abdominal muscles can contribute to this slippage, which can press on the nerve. The presence of this spondylolysis usually does not represent a dangerous condition in the adult and most treatments concentrate on pain relief and increasing the patient's ability to function.

If it travels right down your leg does that mean it is more serious than pain in the buttock. If it is serious what should you do? 2 - How long have you had your back pain?

The scariest thing now is your sciatica may never disappear. You may need up needing surgery or spend a life time with that nagging back pain. You may be worried now that your as your flexibility diminishes, there is no hope.

The cause The most common cause of sciatica is a prolapsed (slipped) disc, pinched nerves or some form of arthritis. It usually starts with back pain which sometimes improves only to be followed by hamstring or calf pain. It may also include numbness in the toes depending on which branch of the sciatic nerve is irritated.

If your pain is not relieved by analgesics or NSAIDs, your doctor might prescribe narcotic analgesics (such as codeine) for a short time. Side effects of these include nausea, constipation, dizziness and drowsiness, and continued use may result in dependency.

It is important to stay active. Do exercises that develop muscles in your back and stomach. This helps to stablilize your spine. It is also important to maintain a reasonable body weight. Ensure that you practice good posture, and sleep on a mattress that is neither too hard or too soft. You should always discuss health matters with your physician, especially if you suffer progressive weakness, as this may constitute a medical emergency. The problem thought to be something easily treated may be a serious condition caused by the compression of the nerve roots in the lower end ofthe spinal canal, which requires immediate medical attention.

Amanda Baker writes for http://tobeinformed.com

4 - Does your sciatica get worse or better with activity? Should you rest or be active? Does it make a difference to how fast you will heal? What activity is best to do?

Recent studies have shown that bed rest is not necessarily the best way to treat sciatica. It is better to remain active, starting off with some gentle stretching and exercise. Swimming is particularly useful, as it is not a weight bearing exercise. The good news is that herniated spinal discs usually do heal on their own, given time.

Different pain characteristics help you understand the actual cause of your pain and what you need to do to remove it. Do you know which type you have?

The answers to these questions are essential if you want relief from your sciatica. After all the biggest fear is that you will never be free of your sciatica pain, that you will need up needing surgery and therefore never get back to full activity.

Sciatica is usually caused by a prolapsed or 'slipped' disc bulging and pressing on to a nerve. It doesn't usually cause permanent nerve damage since the spinal cord is not present in the lower part of the spine and a prolapsed or herniated disc in this area does not pose a risk of paralysis.

As a last resort you may consider surgery to remove fragments of the prolapsed disc are then removed. As I mentioned earlier it is important to stay active and continue with an exercise and stretching program. Especially do exercises to develop your back and stomach muscles. This will help stabilize your spine and support your body.

Since getting mobile and becoming flexible is extremely important you might require some pain management to help you get going. For mild cases of sciatica your doctor may start off by recommending non prescription medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, known as non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. A downside of these drugs is that they may cause stomach upsets or bleeding.

This information in this article should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease. You should always consult with your health care professional especially relating to the suitability of supplements or drugs and on all health matters that may require diagnosis or medical attention. If you suffer from progressive weakness in the leg or bladder or bowel incontinence this constitutes a medical emergency and you should seek immediate medical attention - you may have cauda equina syndrome a serious condition due to compression of the nerve roots in the lower end of the spinal canal.

Sciatic pain is usually nerve related and responds well to treatment with low doses of tricyclic anti-depressant drugs like amitriptyline, dothiepin, nortriptyline, lofepramine, desipramine, clomipramine or imipramine combined with acupuncture or the use of TENs machines. The low dosage of the tricyclic drug acts by closing "a pain gate" blocking the message to the brain.

Treatment for sciatica is varied. It is only possible to find out what treatment is best for you by going to your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor may order an MRI to conclude the exact cause of sciatic pain, although many physicians can determine the cause through physical examination alone.

If you knew the answer to some simple questions then you can easily determine whether you need help, if your sciatica will ease quickly or if you have something actually to be scared of.

5 - How did you back pain start? Falls, injuries, a slow or sudden build up of sciatica. These can determine whether you should seek help or whether you can help your self at home. This is vital information.

Bill Morrison has his own website http://www.help4urback.com where he describes his own personal experiences coping with lower back pain and sciatica. He also includes personal recommendations for people who suffer from sciatica or lower back pain including what books to buy, TENs machines, and what web sites to check out.

Sciatica profiles are a simple way you can assess your sciatica to determine if it is serious or not. Whether you need to seek help or if you can help your self at home. Should you be active or not, and if you need to be active which activities are best.

The Cure Some cases of sciatica which result from inflammation get better with time and heal themselves perhaps within six weeks to three months.

 
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Stretching and exercising are a must if you really want to progress along the road to rehabilitation and if you are in extreme pain this is probably the last thing you will contemplate doing.

There is a fairly new procedure called IDET which stands for Iintro Discal Electrothermy). When a disc is herniated the water content of the inflamed disc causes it to bulge and press against the nerve. IDET dries up the disc very quickly, in less than 20 minutes, a process which might take weeks or months if left to dry up naturally

Is it chronic or acute? Does this mean you will end up living with sciatica if you have had it for years? Will it continually get worse? 3 - What type of pain do you have?

It is also important to maintain a reasonable body weight, ensure you have a good posture, sleep on a mattress that is neither too soft nor too hard, be careful when bending or lifting heavy weights.

Do you know if your Sciatica is a worry? Should you be scared? Complete this Sciatica Profile to assess how bad your sciatica is, and its free!

Are you one of the over 80% of adults suffering from back pain? Then you need simple, valuable and expert advice. Dr Graeme Teague is an expert in the structural field, and has been in practice since 1991 - visit The Back Pain Advisor - http://www.back-pain-advisor.com for valuable and expert advice, tips and information on your back pain issues.

Proper stretching and exercising, combined with over-the-counter pain medications can assist on the road to recovery. If your pain is not relieved by the milder pain medications, your doctor may prescribe a naroctic analgesic. However be advised that these medications can cause nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness, and may result in dependency if taken over long periods of time. In extreme cases, surgery may be required to remove fragment of the disc.

What it is Sciatica is the name people give to a pain in the buttock, leg or foot brought on as a direct result of some form of irritation to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It runs all the way from the lower back splitting at the base of the spine and terminating in the foot.

Sciatica is most commonly caused by a slipped disc in the lower back, some form of arthritis, or a pinched nerve. It begins with back pain, followed by calf or hamstring pain, and sometimes included numbness in the toes. Forms of sciatica, resulting from inflammation get better with time, healing themselves. However, bed rest is not the best way to treat sciatica. It is shown that remaining active and performing exercises that are not weight bearing can help. Given time, even herniated spinal discs can heal.

In extreme cases spinal injections of corticosteroid into the epidural space (the area around the spinal nerves) or facet joint (between vertebrae) may be given. This is usually carried out by a specialist with follow up injections at a later date.

Simple questions that most of you do not know the answers to. The big five questions you need to know are: 1 - How far does your sciatica travel?

Sciatica is scary, the pain travels down your leg and stops you performing you daily tasks. You once could jump out of bed and do everything you wanted to do, from putting in 100% effort at work to playing with your children.

Other treatments to manage sciatica include traction; manipulation by a skilled osteopath, physio therapist or chiropractor; Chemonucleolysis (injection of a special enzyme into the disk).

Piriformis syndrome is a condition in which the piriformis muscle irritates the sciatic nerve. The piriformis muscle is a small muscle behind the gluteus maximus. Piriformis syndrome is most common among women, runners and walkers.

There are many different treatments for sciatica and it is important to discuss these with your health practitioner. Accurate diagnosis to determine the exact cause of sciatic pain is also equally important. The most conclusive diagnosis is usually gained by a having an MRI scan. However having said that skilled medical practitioners, and I include Osteopaths and Chiropractors, are often able to determine the suspected cause by carrying out a physical examination

Pain is the most common symptom from sciatica. Often only affecting one side of the lower body, Sciatica pain extends from the lower back, through the lower back of the thigh and down through the leg. This pain may also extend to the foot or toes depending on the location of where the sciatic nerve is being affected. Most people will describe this as a deep severe pain that is worsened with certain movements. From a mild ache to a sharp burning sensation, causing extreme discomfort, sciatica pain is never the same for any one person. The pain can be so intense and uncomfortable that at times it may feel like a jolt or an electric shock. Often starting gradually, sciatica pain intensifies over time. Most often only one lower extremity is affected. Sciatica pain can be severe and debilitating for some people, while for others the pain caused by the sciatica can be irritating but infrequent. With sciatica there is always potential for it to get worse. It is best to seek a professional diagnostic and follow recommended therapy for any form of sciatica, however mild it may be. In addition to pain, if you suffer from sciatica you may also experience: Muscle weakness or numbness: This will be felt along the nerve pathway in your leg or foot. You may have painful sciatica symptoms in one part of your leg, and numbness in another area making it difficult to move the leg or foot. Tingling or pins and needles feeling: This feeling is usually felt in part of your foot or in your toes. Loss of bladder or bowel control: Associated with Cauda Equina syndrome, this is a sign of this rare and serious condition that requires immediate emergency care. If you experience either of these symptoms, it is imperative that you seek emergency medical attention immediately. A few other symptoms that require no explanation are Pain in the rear or leg that worsens when you are sitting A constant pain on one side of the buttock Shooting pain making if difficult to stand up Sciatica symptoms can often be made worse with prolonged sitting or standing positions. Described by some people, the worst pain feeling like trying to stand from a low sitting position, such as standing up after sitting on a toilet seat for a duration. A hard bowel movement, coughing, sneezing, laughing or a sudden jerking motion will most often make the pain worse in most people. Often when stretching people will bend backwards to try and loosen up some muscles, this is another way some people aggravate their sciatica symptoms. I usually do not repeat myself but I am going to for this purpose. If you have progressive lower extremity weakness and or loss of bladder or bowel control, it is imperative that you seek professional medical attention for your sciatica symptoms immediately. Sciatica conditions can worsen with time. Self diagnosing is never recommended and seeking professional medical attention is always a better alternative. A well trained professional can help you bring your sciatica symptoms under control and help you live with a higher quality of life.


Mary J. Vega

 
 
     
 
 





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