What is Sciatica?
It is important to understand just what exactly sciatica pain is although it is often confused with other medical conditions and sometimes even used as an umbrella term for anything else that is not easily diagnosed! Sciatica is a set of symptoms rather than a diagnosis in itself. Sometimes sciatica pain can be confused with other serious medical conditions such as a tumour or infection so a careful diagnosis is always important.
What Causes It?
Basically it is severe acute pain in the lower back or it can be constant back pain radiating from the lumbar region of the back. The pain is caused by pressure or irritation of one or more nerves exiting the lower spine that make up the sciatic nerve. There are many medical conditions that can cause this, for example, a spinal disc has moved out of its original position and can therefore irritate the nerve root in the lower back which is joined to the sciatic nerve. Pain can be acute- lasting less than a month. Chronic pain will usually last longer than six months- the percentage is between 1-5% of all lower back pain cases.
Pain can be felt along all or part of the course of the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower back, through the buttock into the calf and even into the foot.
Sedentary lifestyle, weak back and stomach muscles are usually causes of sciatica. Obesity will put an enormous strain on the spine and therefore increase pressure on the vertebrae.
How Is It Normally Cured?
Anti inflammatory drugs and surgery are solutions which may or may not cure the condition. Spinal manipulation, massage therapy and physical therapy are all possible solutions and are sometimes recommended before considering surgery.
What is the remedy for this condition and what can be helpful instead of going down the path to drugs and surgery?
Many doctors recommend bed rest but exercise is usually much better in the long term for healing this condition. Some patients like to rest for a few days after an acute attack but if inactivity continues, this may make the pain worse. It is essential to understand that if the back muscles become weak and flabby from lack of exercise, then they will be less able to support the back. Weak muscles here will cause more pain than before and will increase the chances of injury due to sudden movement.
Exercising the lower back area and postural stretching can be enormously beneficial. Careful attention needs to be paid to posture and body mechanics to get the maximum benefit from the exercises. Exercises need to be done twice a day and under supervision of a trainer or instructor.
Overall, sciatica sufferers can avoid a lot of agonising back pain by maintaining a support for the back while sitting (avoiding sprawling on a couch!) and maintaining good posture, avoiding standing for long periods of time and using safe techniques for lifting heavy objects. Caring for your back should be an essential part of your daily routine.
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