The symptoms of sciatica are notorious. Intense, electric pain that shoots down a nerve from the lower back into one leg is a common complaint, yet comparatively few people experience the real thing. Lumbar radiculopathy, the medical name for the condition, can be mimicked by other conditions.
There are encouraging facts about sciatica that can be comforting to keep in mind when your symptoms flare up. When home care isn’t enough, visit Neuropathy & Pain Centers of Texas for the medical assistance you need to return your life to normal.
What is sciatica?
A common misconception that some people carry is that sciatica is a medical condition in itself. However, it’s a name given to a collection of symptoms that occur for a variety of reasons, each involving some form of nerve compression or irritation. The sciatic nerve is the largest in your body, creating a range of symptoms when it’s affected.
Several nerve roots branch off the spinal cord to form the two sciatic nerves that run down each leg from spine to foot. While it’s possible that both nerves can be affected simultaneously, it’s much more common that just one leg produces symptoms.
1. Sciatica is (usually) not serious
Despite the sometimes severe pain that stabs through your back and hip, it’s generally not a sign of a serious medical issue. Instead, it’s a temporary condition that your body can correct even without medical treatment.
One of the more common reasons for sciatica symptoms is disc herniation. Between each bone pair in the spine is a soft cushioning disc that acts as a shock absorber and point of movement for the spine. Made of a tougher outer shell and softer inner gel, this disc can be cracked or ruptured, sometimes allowing the inner gel to escape. It can happen without you ever knowing, but when the gel presses against the sciatic nerve, sciatica symptoms may result.
However, your body can repair the disc and, in doing so, relieve the nerve pressure. Most cases of disc herniation clear up on their own in about six weeks, as do the accompanying sciatica symptoms.
2. Movement is good for you
Despite the sharp pain, sitting still to avoid pain is usually the wrong response to sciatica. Gentle exercise like walking or swimming encourages blood flow and healing. Muscle spasms that accompany pain ease up and, in general, you’ll feel better when you’re moving, compared to sitting or laying, waiting for the condition to pass.
3. Sciatica responds to treatment
If you’re new to the condition, it’s reassuring to know that sciatica treatments are typically effective. It’s important to have an accurate diagnosis, since there are causes besides herniated discs. Spinal stenosis (a narrowing of spaces through which nerves pass) and spondylolisthesis (a misalignment of vertebrae) are two other common causes of sciatica, with different treatments than disc ruptures.
4. It may not be sciatica
Though you have pain, tingling, and numbness down one leg, it’s not guaranteed that a typical sciatica cause is the problem. For instance, piriformis syndrome may produce similar symptoms, though it’s a muscle in the hip and buttock that irritates the sciatic nerve further along its length. Not all leg pain originates with the sciatic nerve.
5. Medications aren’t the best treatment
While over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve early-stage pain symptoms of sciatica, there’s little evidence that drug therapy has any long-term benefit for the causes of sciatica. Time, physical therapy, moderate exercise, and chiropractic adjustments will help you out more in the long term.
Your sciatica may have elements in common with others, but your treatment is customized for you. See the sciatica experts at Neuropathy & Pain Centers of Texas for a comprehensive assessment and treatment plan. Contact the nearest of their locations by phone or online to book an appointment today.