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Chronic Sciatica

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Chronic Sciatica
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body that begins from the lumbar spinal cord in the low back and terminates in the nerve endings of the lower limb. Sciatic pain is generally felt at the lower back and radiates down to parts of the leg including the foot. Sciatica is common during pregnancy.

Sciatica pain occurs due to irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica also known as sciatic neuritis is caused due to the compression or irritation of either of the five root nerves from where the sciatic nerve arises or due to the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve itself. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body that begins from the lumbar spinal cord in the low back and terminates in the nerve endings of the lower limb. Sciatic pain is generally felt at the lower back and radiates down to parts of the leg including the foot. In general, the symptoms for chronic sciatica or sciatica are felt only on one side of the body.

Sciatica is not a disorder but is a symptom that signifies problem of the nerve. Few patients experience pain throughout while a few experience pain that might be intermittent, depending on the position they assume and their activity level. Sciatica can be diagnosed by your physician after a thorough physical examination. After physical examination of the patient, the physician might ask for a CT scan, MRI or electromyogram to further investigate the case. Sciatica can affect just about anyone, but it is extremely uncommon in young patients. Sciatica generally affects people above 30 years of age.

Sciatica Causes

  • Disc herniation is the major cause for sciatica

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis

  • Lumbar herniated disc

  • Any degenerative disc disease

  • Aging can cause sciatica as the bones and nerves tend to degenerate with age

  • Any trauma caused to the spine

  • Spinal tumor

Sciatica Symptoms

  • Lower back pain
  • Shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand
  • Radiating pain from the lower spine extending until the nerve end
  • Tingling sensation in the leg
  • Numbness of the leg
  • Burning sensation
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Inability to move the knee
  • Unable to control bladder or bowel movements

Sciatica Treatment

The treatment for sciatica is planned after studying the cause for pain and based on the severity of pain. The best treatment for sciatica is bed rest, other common treatments include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Stretching exercise
  • Medication that can relieve pain and inflammation
  • Non-surgical spinal decompression
  • Surgery in cases where sciatica is caused due to nerve compression

Prevention of sciatica

It is not really possible to prevent sciatica; you can try your best to keep trouble at bay by:

  • Exercising regularly

  • Following proper body mechanics while lifting heavy weight, sleeping, standing, etc.

  • Maintaining correct posture while sitting

Most people do not need surgery to recover from sciatica. Recovery period is between 3 weeks and 3 months when no permanent damage is done to the nerves. Sciatica is not a medical emergency but if the person experiences trouble with bowel or bladder function or has continual leg weakness then the person should contact the physician immediately.

Sciatica and pregnancy

Pregnancy can bring about a variety of complications, sciatica being one among them. Three out of four pregnant women suffer from sciatica during their pregnancy. Besides morning sickness, sciatica is the most common problem faced by pregnant women. Sciatica pain during pregnancy targets the lower back and the hip area of women. Sciatica and pregnancy are inter-related; the most common causes that lead to sciatica are:

Weight gain: Pregnant women gain at least 25 pounds and this sudden increase in weight leads to stress on the back especially while bending. This excess weight also exerts extra pressure on the lower back.

Hormonal changes: Pregnancy induces hormonal changes which in turn loosens the ligaments in the spinal and pelvic region. This can cause the area to strain easily thus leading to conditions like sciatica.

Growing uterus: The uterus increases in size within the pelvis thus compressing the spinal nerves in the low back which in turn irritate and compress the sciatic nerve thus causing sciatica.

Sciatica treatment during pregnancy

Generally sciatica pain disappears on its own; taking at least six weeks after the delivery for the pain to settle down. Routine treatment for sciatica during pregnancy includes:

  • Working with a physical therapist can help relieve the pain to a great extent.

  • Exercises as advised by the therapist can provide comfort and relieve pain.

  • Yoga can also help relieve pain to a great extent.

  • Posture changes can also help relieve pain.

  • Massage therapy can prove to be useful for some women. Massage therapy helps in reducing inflammation and other symptoms related with sciatica. Massage also relieves muscle tension thus reducing the pain caused due to ciatica.

  • Therapeutic bath also helps relieve pain caused due to sciatica.

Sciatica exercises

Strengthening the muscles in the affected area can help you fight sciatica with ease. Strengthening and stretching the muscles of the abdomen and back can help deal with pain and inflammation. Exercise will improve the health of the fluids between the discs and will also improve lubrication between the discs. Exercise will strengthen the muscles of the abdomen and back.

There are a variety of exercises for sciatica depending on the cause of the pain. Most of the exercises involve stretches that target specific muscles. Exercising regularly can improve the mobility of the muscles and also strengthen the muscles thus quickening recovery.

A physiotherapist, chiropractor, physiatrist certified athletic trainer (ATC) or a specialist who treats back and lower body problems should be consulted for sciatica pain relief. People suffering from sciatica should exercise only under the supervision of a trained professional.

Simple stretching exercise for the lower back

  • On a hard surface, lie on your back

  • Slowly and gently pull one knee at a time towards the chest until you begin feeling the stretch on the muscles in your lower back.

  • Remain in this position for about 30 seconds

  • Repeat with the other knee

  • Do six counts; remember to not do this exercise if you experience pain.

Simple stretch for the lower back and abdominal muscles

  • On a hard surface, lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor

  • Press your lower back to the floor without using your feet or leg; use your abdominal muscles to remain in the position.

  • Repeat for 10 times if the position does not hurt you

Horizontal back stretch

  • Lie on your abdomen
  • Prop up on your elbows and extend your back
  • Straighten your elbows and continue to extend your back
  • Keep straightening your elbows until you feel a gentle stretch
  • Hold yourself in this position for 15 seconds
  • Get back to the starting position and repeat this stretch for 10 counts

Other exercises for sciatica

  • Press-ups, extension exercises for herniated disc sciatica

  • Flexing and stabilizing exercises for Isthmic spondylolisthesis sciatica

  • Flexing and stabilizing exercise for the lower spine for spinal stenosis sciatica

Sciatica acupuncture

Acupuncture works well in reducing pain and inflammation caused due to sciatica. Fine needles are inserted in the path of the pain. This helps in moving the qi energy within the affected area and in removing the pain. Mild electric stimulation is passed through the needles for people with chronic pain. Ear Acupuncture also helps in treating sciatica pain. Seeds are taped to the ears after the needles are removed so that there is continuous stimulation to the points.

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