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Everything You Need to Know About Sciatica


As the largest and longest nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve provides motor control and sensation to the lower legs and feet. It stretches from the nerve roots in the spinal cord in the lower back, splitting and running down both legs all the way down to the feet. 

The sciatic nerve is extremely sensitive. If you have ever experienced sciatica or even only heard of it, you know that this condition can be quite unpleasant. Read on to find out more about sciatica, its causes, symptoms, and treatments. 

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. The pain associated with this condition is usually felt in the lower back, often expanding to behind the thighs and below the knees. However, sciatica isn’t only about lower back pain but it can become a serious condition and interfere with the individual’s daily functions if not treated properly and timely. 

According to statistics, anywhere between 10% and 40% of Americans will suffer from sciatic nerve pain at some point in their lives. That is why it is important to recognize the symptoms of sciatica and treat it promptly. 

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica appears due to inflammation or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The most common symptoms of sciatica include:

        lumbar disc herniation, which directly compresses the nerve

        narrowing of the spinal canal, also known as spinal stenosis

       pelvic fracture, as this kind of injury often leads to damage in the nervous tissue

        pregnant women also have a chance of experiencing sciatica due to changes in their body 

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

The symptoms of sciatica can develop gradually over time or appear quite suddenly. The first symptom most people feel is shooting pain in the lower back. Patients also describe a burning sensation, numbness or weakness in their legs, or tingling in the lower back. The pain, numbness, or burning feeling then usually extend to the buttocks, hip, and one leg. 

When a person is experiencing sciatica symptoms, they find it extremely difficult or even impossible to sit down. Symptoms of sciatica usually occur when a person is bending down or walking and they are best relieved by lying down in a horizontal position. 

What are the risk factors for sciatica?

There are a lot of different factors which contribute to this condition, including the following:

        Age. The risk of sciatica increases greatly after a person turns 40. At this age, the spine starts to change due to bone spurs and herniated discs.

        Weight. When a person is overweight, the spine is under additional stress. This is a contributing factor to disc fracture and in turn – sciatica.

        Prolonged sitting. When a person sits for long periods of time, the spinal discs will compress and herniate over time.

        Sleeping in an uncomfortable bed. A low-quality bed can do a lot of harm to the sciatic area. It is important to choose a mattress which isn’t too hard or too soft, since both of these could lead to sciatica pain. 

How to treat sciatica?

After a physician examines a person and discovers they have sciatica, there is a number of treatments they could suggest. Luckily, most people can recover from sciatica without surgical intervention. Treatment options differ from person to person and depend on the cause of the condition.

        Bed rest. If sciatica hasn’t developed, a few-day rest on a supportive mattress could be sufficient. If you don’t want to lie in bed all day, you should consider sitting in an ergonomic chair.

        Taking medication. Your physician could prescribe pain relievers, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatories to help ease the pain. Steroids can also be helpful, as well as antidepressants.

        Physical therapy. People can recover from sciatica by doing a variety of low back conditioning and stretching exercises. There are also some strengthening exercises that could help you recover from sciatica and avoid it in the future.

        Surgical intervention. Only 10-20% of patients require surgery. Persisting sciatica can be cured by a surgical procedure and after this, the patient would need bed rest for a period of time.

Anatomy of Sciatica
Source: Online Mattress Review