The Causes, Prevention, And Treatment Of Sciatic Pain

Sciatica is a painful condition caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve runs from the base of the spine to the feet, and trauma to this nerve can result in mild to debilitating pain at any point along the nerve's path.

What are the causes of sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is usually irritated by trauma to the spine, which may become misaligned or compressed for a variety of reasons. Although it seems counter-intuitive, an individual that is suffering from sciatic pain caused by back trauma may experience little or no back pain. Sciatica may be induced by the following causes.

Physical trauma to the spine

A sharp blow or twisting of the spine may cause the vertebra to shift out of alignment, irritating the spinal fluid, which in turn irritates the sciatic nerve.

Compression of the spine from poor posture

This may occur from prolonged sitting or slouching, causing the base of the spine to compress and the sciatic nerve to become irritated.

Excess weight combined with weak abdominal muscles

Added weight creates a strain on the spine, which multiplies if the abdominal muscles, which support the spine, are too weak to handle the additional burden.

Ruptured discs

When the normally pliant discs that separate the spinal vertebra become dry and brittle from age or genetic disposition, the vertebra can shift, causing either back pain or sciatic pain, depending on the location of the rupture.

What are the signs of sciatica?

Sciatica can appear with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including:

  • The feeling of "pins and needles" in the feet
  • Muscle pain in the calves, thighs, or buttocks
  • Painful muscle cramps that continue over an extended period without abating

How can sciatica be prevented?

While accidents or congenital spinal issues cannot be prevented, incidents can be avoided or limited in duration by performing exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles, and losing weight if excess weight is an issue.

Individuals who suffer from periodic occurrences should be mindful of the causes, which may include prolonged sitting, lifting with the back instead of the legs, and engaging in activities that include jumping or sudden twisting of the back.

How is sciatica treated?

Mild cases of sciatica will usually correct themselves without any treatment. Severe pain or muscle cramps will usually require painkillers and a few days rest.

Chiropractors can be consulted for help in correcting misalignment of the lower spine, which can initiate sciatic issues.

A chiropractor like one from Black Horse Chiropractic may order scans to be taken if a ruptured disc or other injury is suspected. While some cases of ruptured discs heal themselves over time, some may require surgery. 

If no injury is found, the individual should attempt to resume limited activity as soon as possible. Resting for too long will result in stiffness and continuation of sciatic pain.