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  • Writer's pictureAdam Whatley

The Truth About Sciatica, Dynamic Osteopaths

Sciatica is a condition very widespread that causes high levels discomfort. Here, Dynamic Osteopaths would like to cover some of the main misconceptions about sciatica, and ways to fully understand what can cause sciatica, the possible warning signs that it may be a dangerous condition, and the full range of possible treatment options.

Sciatica is a very common form of leg pain that is often misunderstood by patients. There are frequent misconceptions about what the term sciatica means, why sciatica occurs and how to find relief from the low back pain and leg pain.

Sciatica happened when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or pinched by another structure, often causing pain in the low back due to local inflammation, and pain on one side of the rear and/or down the back of the leg.

The most common low back pains that cause sciatica are:

  • Disc herniation - where central part of the disc in the low back pushes to the sides and places pressure on a nerve root; also called a trapped nerve, slipped disc or bulging disc.

  • Degenerative disc disease - discs eventually begin to dehydrate for a number of different reasons, then weaken in the low back. This then allow excess motion in the spine and cause irritation of the nerve roots.

  • Spondylolisthesis - where one vertebral body slips over another and pinches a nerve root

  • Spinal stenosis - in which a narrowing of the spinal canal, where the spinal cord travelsl in the lo.

  • Other causes - Although less common than those listed above, there are several other conditions that can cause sciatica and require medical attention. For example, patients who have a spinal tumor or infection should seek help immediately.

As a general rule of understanding sciatica often occurs due to acute trauma or due to age related degenerative changes, that have occurred over time.

Sciatica Can Be Different for Each Patient

Sciatic pain can run from the low back, down the back of each leg and sometimes into the feet and toes. Other sensations associated with sciatica may include tingling or a burning feeling, usually only on one side of the body. People typically feel different types of sciatic pain depending on the location of the nerve irritation.

The severity and duration of pain from sciatica also vary among patients. Some find sciatica pain severe and debilitating, while others experience it as irritating and intermittent.

Many people can recover from an episode of sciatica within a few weeks only when doing the right things and sourcing assistance, but each individual will respond differently. Depending on the particular cause of the patient’s sciatica, the leg pain or low back pain could worsen over time and/or take much longer to be relieved.

Serious Problems relating to sciatica

Pain from sciatica results from damage to the patient’s nerve. In most cases, the nerve damage is not permanent. However, the following signs indicate that there may be a more serious problem that requires immediate medical attention:

  • Patients who feel weakness and wasting may require surgery, and any patient experiencing these symptoms should seek professional attention.

  • Patients who experience bowel or bladder incontinence (inability to control the bowel or bladder) and/or increasing weakness or loss of sensation in the legs should see a professional immediately.

Is Sciatica Genetic?

Sciatica is the result of a problem that has occurred in the low back that can develop from aging or from a spinal injury. These conditions are not passed on genetically, as patients may mistakenly believe.

Piriformis Syndrome is different to Sciatica

Piriformis syndrome is a condition that is often confused with sciatica. When the piriformis muscle becomes tight, it can irritate the sciatic nerve. This causes sciatica-like pain, tingling and numbness that often run from the low back to the rear, down the leg and into the foot. Although the discomfort from piriformis syndrome feels similar to sciatica, the two have different causes. With piriformis problems, the pain is not caused by a compressed nerve root where it exits the spine as occurs with true sciatica.

Correctly identifying the cause of the pain is important because the treatments for each type of pain tend to be very different.

Sciatica Treatment

Because of the many conditions that can compress nerve roots and cause sciatica, each patient must be treated on an individual basis. A combination of treatment options is often the most effective course, and many patients will try some combination of the following treatment options:

  • Physical rehabilitation therapy and osteopathic treatments can help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.

  • Heat therapy can help to relieve acute pain from sciatica.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, i.e. ibuprofen, naproxen)

  • If all of the above fail, an epidural steroid injections can reduce inflammation around the nerve root and the associated low back pain.

  • To help control the low back pain and leg pain while undergoing other nonsurgical treatments, patients may take pain medications.

  • Surgery may also be considered as a treatment option, usually (but not always) following a course of conservative treatments.

It is important to note that what works for one patient may not work for another, even if they have the same back problems. For example, a patient who has sciatica from a herniated disc may not find relief from conservative treatments and then will choose to undergo lumbar surgery.

Another patient with sciatica from a similar type of herniated disc may find sufficient low back pain and leg pain relief through conservative treatments, such as osteopathy, acupuncture with a good physical rehabilitation programme.

Patients with sciatica should not attempt to self-treat their condition without consulting a health professional, like an osteopath. Establishing a correct diagnosis is the first step towards sciatica relief, as the sciatica treatment options and precautions are different for each diagnosis. An osteopath can also detect any serious problems early on and take action to prevent permanent damage or injury.

Please get in touch for further information at Dynamic Osteopaths. 01564 330773

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