What To Know About Sciatic Nerve Pain
The sciatica nerve is a long nerve that runs from the lower back down the backs of the legs. When this nerve becomes compressed or pinched, the result can be severe pain and inflammation radiating down the leg. This nerve pain, called sciatica, may even cause tingling or numbness in the legs. Here’s what patients need to know about recognizing sciatica symptoms.
What causes sciatica?
Most often, the nerve pain occurs when the nerve gets compressed. This might be due to a ruptured disc in the back, a bone spur, or a narrowing of the spinal column called spinal stenosis. Some people have a higher risk of developing sciatica, including those who are overweight, have diabetes, sit for long periods during the day, or have a job that requires a lot of twisting of the spine.
Recognizing sciatic nerve pain
The level of severity of sciatica symptoms can vary. For some people, sciatica shows up as a dull discomfort or ache. For others, pain can be intense, sharp, or even burning. Pain might worsen with jolting movements, such as coughing or sneezing. The pain can occur anywhere along the leg, but most often is felt in the back of the thigh or calf. Typically, people only experience sciatica symptoms in one leg at a time.
Preventing sciatica is not always possible. But there are some strategies people can use to lower the risk of developing this condition. Regular exercise helps to strengthen the core and lower back, as well as manage weight. Make sure always to maintain proper posture, especially while working at a desk. Choose a seat that has strong lower back support where the knees and hips stay level. Some patients may benefit from going to physical therapy to strengthen posture and learn to move more optimally.
A pain management specialist can offer additional treatment options if home remedies don’t relieve pain. A corticosteroid injection can help suppress inflammation and relieve pain for a few months. A healthcare provider may also recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications to reduce inflammation or relax muscles. Typically, patients can manage sciatic nerve pain without surgery, but in some cases, surgery may be the best treatment. If a herniated disc has caused sciatica, a doctor may recommend a discectomy to remove the portion of the disc that’s pressing on the nerve.
In mild cases, sciatica may go away with some home pain management strategies. If symptoms persist, see a healthcare provider for additional treatment options. If the pain is sudden, has occurred after an injury, or if there is numbness in the legs, don’t wait to see a healthcare provider.