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What is Sciatica?
Definition of Sciatica
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Definition of Sciatica

The definition of sciatica is pain along the sciatic nerve, radiating from the lumbar spine, along the back of the buttocks and thigh and down the leg. Sciatica is most commonly caused by a herniated disc which presses on the sciatic nerve, causing pain. The pain may be experienced as a shooting pain from the back of the hip joint down the back of the leg or back pain felt in the lower back. Sciatica is a symptom; it indicates that there is an underlying problem.

The onset of the pain can be sudden and the shooting pain takes many people by surprise. Frequently, the patient was lifting something heavy, bending and twisting or squatting when the pain was felt. Often the person feels as though they cannot move or it may be very painful to move in any direction. The pain is made worse by sneezing, coughing or bending forward. Numbness or tingling in the feet and toes may also be present.

Any sudden or unexplained pain needs to be investigated by a doctor so that a correct diagnosis can be made. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong; any strong, sustained or debilitating pain indicates that you need to find out what is causing it. While rest is often the treatment for sciatica, you need to know that this is the condition you have.

Older people may suffer from a different kind of sciatica. In these cases, the onset of sciatica pain is more gradual with often just an ache being present in the lower back. Sitting down and resting will often alleviate discomfort and the excruciating shooting pains may not develop. The most common cause of this type of sciatica in older folk is walking down steps or on a downward slope.

The pain of sciatica is caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve, which in turn is caused by compression of the nerve due to the cushioning spinal disc slipping out of alignment. This can cause inflammation of the nerve, which creates the pain.

Because the sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body, the pain can be experienced along the nerve's pathway or be felt as the common symptom of shooting pain down the leg. All this comes about when the back muscles and other core muscles of the torso are weak, when heavy objects are lifted incorrectly or when bending forward for lengthy periods. Arthritis in the spine increases the risk of sciatica.

Rest is often all the treatment that is needed to relieve the pain of sciatica but your doctor may prescribe medication as well. You should always have any back pain investigated so that the correct treatment can be prescribed. Doctors often prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the irritation around the sciatic nerve which in turn will relieve the sciatica pain.

Making some lifestyle changes will help to reduce the possibility of sciatica; regular exercise like walking helps to strengthen the core muscles, learning the correct lifting techniques prevents back injury and pacing yourself when doing a new activity will all help to keep you free from sciatica. Heat packs or cold compresses may help to relieve the pain and you can apply these treatments yourself at home.



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