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Sciatica – Meaning, Symptoms & Treatments

What is the meaning of sciatica? Sciatica is a term used to describe the tingling, numbness, and pain that originates in the lower back and travels right down the sciatic nerve into the back of each leg. It’s caused when the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed. Sciatica is a pain that affects millions of people worldwide but is more common among older people. The reason for this is that as we age our nerves and muscles start to degenerate and weaken. So how do we determine if it’s sciatica? Let’s look at major symptoms. We will also explore a few remedies and treatments for sciatica.

Sciatica Symptoms – The Major Ones

Symptoms may differ slightly from person to person, but generally, those suffering from sciatica will have at least one of the following:

  • A burning or tingling sensation in the leg
  • Constant pain in just one leg or one side of the buttock
  • A pain that worsens when sitting
  • A shooting pain that goes down the leg to the feet and toes
  • Numbness or weakness in the leg, feet, or toes

Common Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica is a not a medical condition itself but rather a symptom of another underlying issue in connection with the lower back. The most common causes of sciatica include (but are not limited to):

  • Slipped disc
  • Back injury
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis

Sciatica exercises

As well as various forms of treatment for sciatica which will come in the next section, there’s also a range of exercises you can do to help mobilize the sciatic nerve. These should improve lower back flexibility and ultimately help ease the pain.

1. Back Extensions

This involves lying on your stomach, propping yourself up with your elbows. As you keep your neck long, arch your back and hold the position for around 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat this 10 times.

2. Knee to Chest Stretch

This will help to improve flexibility in your lower back. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet straight, and about hip-width apart. Then gently bend one knee towards your chest while holding it with both hands. Stretch to as far as feels comfortable and hold the position for around 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat this 3 times with each leg.

3. Standing Hamstring Stretch

This exercise focuses on strengthening and lengthening the hamstrings. To complete this exercise stand upright and raise one leg, keeping your leg straight and toes pointing upwards. Place this leg up onto an object such as a footstool or step and gently lean forward. Hold the position for around 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times per leg.

4. Sciatic Mobilizing Stretch

This exercise is designed to mobilize the sciatic nerve. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, your feet straight, and hip-width apart. Then simply bend one knee towards your chest grasping it with both hands. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat this process 2 or 3 times per leg.

As with any exercise, only do what feels comfortable. If at any point you feel in pain, then stop.

Treatments for Sciatica

There are various different treatment options available to help ease sciatica pain. The following are some of the more common ones:

Medication

Sometimes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen will help to alleviate the pain of sciatica. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe narcotics or muscle relaxants for a short time if the pain persists.

Heat or Ice Packs

Either is effective in alleviating pain caused by migraines. Whichever you decide to go with, apply it to the area that hurts most for around 20 minutes. If using ice make sure to place a towel in between the ice and your skin to avoid getting ice burn.

Steroid Injections

If the sciatica is really severe one way to reduce the inflammation is by having an epidural steroid injection. These injections go straight to the painful area, providing an almost instant relief. The effects of which last anywhere between one week and one year.

Massage Therapy

There are various types of massage therapy that work wonders for back pain. Typically massages increase blood circulation, relax muscles, and release the body’s own natural painkillers (endorphins) into the system.

Acupuncture

This ancient Chinese practice focuses on the philosophy that there’s an open energy flowing through the body and in order to maintain a state of well-being you must not allow this flow to stop. In doing so, you become ill. According to ancient beliefs, acupuncture is a way to restore this natural flow and therefore restore one’s health. This is done by the way of fine needles inserted into the body at certain points.

By now you should have a much clearer understanding as to what sciatica is, it’s most common symptoms and how you can relieve yourself of the pain it causes. Just remember to seek medical attention if the pain persists for more than a few days or the symptoms worsen quickly.

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