What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is one of the most common types of pain. In fact, up to 40% of people will have it in their lifetime, and it usually becomes more of a problem as you get older.

When the sciatic nerve in the lower back is compressed or irritated, it causes pain that radiates down your hip, outer side of your leg, and your back. In some cases, sciatica can also cause tingling and numbness in the legs and feet. Although sciatica is common and treatable, it can be quite painful and in severe cases, it may be debilitating.

What Causes Sciatica?

Certain medical conditions can result in sciatica, including:

  • Narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, also called lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Pregnancy

How is Sciatica Diagnosed?

The key symptom of sciatica is pain that starts in your lower back and travels down one leg, and sometimes, radiates into your foot.

To diagnose sciatica, your doctor will ask questions about the pain you’re feeling, and where the pain is located. Other common questions when diagnosing sciatica include:

  • Lifestyle questions: Do you sit for long periods of time or do heavy lifting or highly physical tasks as part of your job?
  • Exercise habits: Do you have an active or inactive lifestyle?
  • Frequency and duration: How often do you have pain and how long does it last? What helps the pain go away, and which activities worsen it?

A physical exam will be done, and your doctor may ask you to do certain exercises such as squatting or assuming other positions to determine which postures make your pain worse. If pain is severe, you may need x-rays or other tests.

How is Sciatica Treated?

Some cases of acute sciatica can be addressed by self-care measures, which include:

  • Rest and taking a break from usual daily activities
  • Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen
  • Exercises including light stretching and walking
  • Hot or cold packs

In some cases, sciatica-related pain can be severe and may require more long-term treatment measures such as physical therapy. Physical therapy can also help people with chronic sciatica symptoms. In physical therapy, you will do exercises and learn techniques to relieve pain on your own. Physical therapy can improve your pain so that you have long-term relief and can avoid sciatica “flare-ups.”

Managing Sciatica at Home

Using proper body mechanics and safe lifting techniques — keeping the back straight while bending the knees to pick up items – can help reduce the chance of aggravating sciatica. These self-care tips can also help:

  • Doing stretching exercises can keep your back muscles healthy and strong
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight can help you reduce back and hip pain
  • Yoga has been shown to help, as yoga increases your flexibility and helps strengthen your body if done regularly

When to Seek Medical Care

If your sciatica does not improve after several days or seems to be getting worse, contact your doctor for an appointment. If you’re having sciatica for the first time, getting early care and treatment is important.

Flexogenix Can Help

Are you suffering from joint pain? Resting and stretching may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. At Flexogenix, we provide nonsurgical options for osteoarthritis, joint pain, and joint injuries. Call our office today to make an appointment with one of our joint specialists and find relief from pain.