The sciatic nerve, also referred to as 'ischiatic' nerve, is a large nerve in the human body. It is the longest and widest single nerve present. It begins in the lower back, and goes down till the lower limb through the buttocks. This nerve supplies nearly the entire skin of the leg, the muscles at the back of the thigh, and those of the feet and legs. Sciatica is a set of indicants, including pain, caused by the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.
- The symptoms include pain starting in the buttocks or back, which moves down the leg, and can probably extend into your feet.
- One can also experience a persisting pain in the lower back.
- Other symptoms include weakness, numbness, or a tingling sensation in the legs. It is always better to consult a physician at the onset of these symptoms.
- A bulging lumbar disc could be one of the reasons. In this case, the gel-like center, which is called the nucleus pulposus, remains 'contained' within the outer wall of the disc. On the other hand, a case of herniated disc occurs when the nucleus breaks through the annulus. In both the cases, disc material can press against an adjacent nerve root and compress the delicate nerve tissue. This can cause sciatic nerve inflammation.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis, a nerve compression disorder, is also one of the major causes of this condition. This disorder is mostly seen in aged people.
- Spondylolisthesis, a disorder affecting the lumbar spine, is also one of the causes of sciatic leg pain. This disorder is either acquired at birth, or caused by spinal degeneration or physical stress.
- Sciatica can also be a result of direct nerve compression, caused by external forces, of the lumbar or sacral spinal nerve roots.
- The pain experienced due to the irritation caused by the piriformis muscle in the sciatic nerve is known as piriformis syndrome. The piriformis syndrome is named after the piriformis muscle. This muscle is located in the lower part of the spine, connects to the thighbone, and assists in hip rotation.
- Medical analysis of your symptoms is the first step in the diagnosis. However, in certain cases, some additional tests may be required.
- The commonly preferred tests to confirm the diagnosis are X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging tests (a test which employs the use of magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to capture images of the organs inside the body), and electromyogram (a test in which the electrical activity of the muscles is recorded).
The problems linked with one's sciatic nerve heal with time.
- The primary treatment for this condition includes medicines and exercises that can relieve pain. Drugs used for the treatment include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Controlled intake of potassium helps in alleviating this nerve problem. This is because muscle contraction is one of the key functions of potassium in the body. Doctors usually recommend 4.7 grams of potassium intake on a daily basis for adults.
- Using an ice pack/cold compress on the middle of the lower back can also provide some relief.
- Short walks can be another option in this regard. However, the walking distance should be increased gradually.
- In addition to this, physical therapy or even surgery might be suggested in severe cases.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.