What Can Cause Sciatica, How Can You Diagnose It and When Is It an Emergency?


What is Sciatica?

Many people often wonder what sciatica is. Sciatica is a term used to refer to any symptoms or problems caused by the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Sciatica is a common cause of chronic pain, numbness, burning sensations in the back and severe back pain.

What Can Cause Sciatica, How Can You Diagnose It and When Is It an Emergency?
What is Sciatica? via doctony.org
Diagnosing the cause of your pain is a great way to find a solution that will meet your needs. If you have pains from being pregnant, then the solution you are going to require will be much different than one for poor posture. Trying to identify the stressors on your body on your own can seem impossible. 

It is important to seek professional help when you need it most. When you want to know what are the best sciatica exercises and sciatica stretches for pain relief, then it becomes important to find a reliable source of information. Learning about your body can help you feel better in no time.

What is The Sciatic Nerve?

The sciatic nerve is part of a complex mechanism in the body. This specific nerve is also commonly referred to as the ischiadic nerves. These large fibers are found in humans from the lower back and run down through the rear into the legs. Because these types of nerves are so long, any damage that is done to them can cause pain that radiates throughout the whole body and causes people misery.

There are many ways that people can injure the many nerves that are in their bodies. During pregnancy, many women find that the extra weight they are carrying puts extreme amounts of pressure on the nerve and can cause damage. 

Tumors from cancers or non-cancerous conditions also add pressure onto the nerves in the body. Being able to pin point the cause of your pain can help you determine the best program to start.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Symptoms of sciatica can range from irritation, burning, numbness, tingling or pain. The symptoms of sciatica may only occur when seated for a long time, when standing or persist throughout the day. The irritation or pain may reside in one part of the back or radiate down to the knee. 

In some cases, the pain will shoot all the way down the leg to the calf or foot. It may affect one leg or both, one side of the back or the entire lower back. Sciatica may progress from irritation and tingling to numbness and agony. If your symptoms are getting progressively worse or gradually affecting more of your body, seek medical attention immediately.

Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica causes are varied. Sciatica is sometimes caused by nerve damage after an injury, a slipped disk or herniated disc in the spine. A lumbar herniated disc is one of the most common causes of sciatica. 

Pinched nerves and irritation of the nerve after spinal injury can cause it. Infections like meningitis can cause it. A common cause is pregnancy, as the baby puts weight against the spine and pinches the nerve.

In rare cases, sciatica is caused by a tumor on the nerve trunk or in the spine. Continuing to pick up heavy loads or work after a spinal disk has slipped can cause sciatica. Sciatica can also occur when the sciatic nerve is pinched by the piriformis muscle. The nerve is thus pinched by the piriformis muscle every time it contracts.

Many individuals who are suffering find that they cannot live the lives that they once enjoyed. Simple joys like taking the dog for a walk or bending down to pick up your child can seem impossible because of the pain. With the advances in technology and the knowledge that doctors have, there is no longer any reason for a person to have to live their lives in chronic pain.

What Increases Your Risk of Sciatica?

If you have had sciatica in the past, pregnancy can cause it to return. The odds of a sciatica flare up and its intensity increase as the pregnancy progresses. For example, the baby will put more weight on your spine in the third trimester than the second, putting more pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Arthritis in the spine increases the odds of sciatica. Prior back injuries or severe trauma such as surviving a car crash increase your odds. Repeated heavy lifting will add stress to your back.

Osteoporosis in the back can cause slouching and stooping, increasing pressure on an already herniated disk. 

Obesity increases your odds of sciatica, since each pound of weight increases the load on your back and legs. 

Scoliosis can increase your odds of developing sciatica, as will poor back posture in someone who has a herniated disk, sacroiliac joint dysfunction or lumbar spinal stenosis. If you are part of the 15% of the population whose sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis nerve instead of by it, you are at increased risk for sciatica pain.

Short Term Sciatica Treatment Options

If you have a sciatica flare up, you can seek immediate relief through use of pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medication and alternating hot and cold packs. Doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants to stop the muscle spasms caused by sciatica or inject steroids into the back to reduce inflammation.
In rare cases, prescription pain relievers are given, though this introduces the risk of addiction.Bed rest can help relieve sciatica that worsens when you sit or stand, but long term bed rest will worsen the condition. 

Steroid shots can provide immediate relief, while muscle relaxants will stop muscle spasms.Patients should be wary of anti-depressant drugs offered for sciatica, since physical therapy and surgery offer long term treatment for this disorder. For example, someone with a herniated disk could have part of the disk removed or spinal vertebrae fused. 

In the rare cases of sciatica caused by a spinal fracture, treatment of the cracked or broken bone may offer permanent relief. If the sciatica is caused by a bone spur against the spine, back surgery may be in order. If surgery for a slipped or herniated spinal disk is not in order, the best long term cure for sciatica is strengthening the muscles in the back and “core” muscles to reduce the strain on the back and pressure on the piriformis.

Acupuncture can ease muscle pain, but it will not resolve the underlying cause of the disorder. Spinal decompression treatment, especially over many sessions, offers long term relief.

Massage is not yet proven to ease sciatica pain long term, though it can ease immediate back spasms and the stress caused by sciatic pain. 

Hypnosis allows some people to manage their pain, but treatments should focus on permanent solutions and life style changes to prevent future sciatica flare ups.

When is Sciatica an Emergency?

What is initially dismissed as sciatica should be considered an emergency if the pain is so severe that you cannot stand it, cannot physically stand or cannot get out of bed. Always seek medical attention if you lose the ability to control your bladder or lose feeling in your legs. 

You should seek medical attention immediately if the symptoms of sciatica appear in someone under the age of twenty. 

If you are suffering from symptoms of sciatica and have an attendant fever, this could be the symptoms of a disease like meningitis. 

If you thought you had sciatica and develop a high fever, get to an Emergency Room for treatment.

If the symptoms seem to be sciatica but have occurred after an injury like a fall down the stairs, get to the ER, since this is proof of a nerve injury or back injury.

Do not assume that a pain in your chest is sciatica; this could be a symptom of a heart attack. A severe pain in the lower back that doesn’t change with your physical position could be a sign of appendicitis or kidney infection; sharp pain that is inside the body cavity should drive you to the doctor, not a chiropractor. 

Get to the hospital if the sciatica symptoms are accompanied by redness or swelling in the back; this is a sign of an infection or tissue damage, not a pinched nerve. 

If you have a lumbar herniated disc and suddenly have trouble walking, get to the Emergency Room.

Call the doctor if the sciatica symptoms are accompanied by trouble urinating or have blood in the urine. This is a sign of a bladder infection kidney infection. 

Contact a medical professional if the symptoms of sciatica are accompanied by unexplained weight loss or after using IV drugs, legally or illegally. 

Always visit the doctor if self-care for your sciatica has not brought relief within four weeks or if the pain suddenly becomes much worse.

Sciatica and Pregnancy

If you suffered from severe sciatica while pregnant, you may want to reconsider subsequent pregnancies. Discuss these options with your doctor. The problem may be mitigated by limiting weight gain during pregnancy or preventing the buildup of fluid in the body that may have been a contributing factor. 

However, if you are suffering from sciatica while pregnant, you should consult with a doctor before taking any other the counter medications, trying any herbal treatments or using a prescription medication you received prior to the pregnancy.

What Type of Tests Give You a Sciatica Diagnosis?

When you find that you cannot go on with your life because you do not know how to deal with your pain, then it is time to seek help. Doctors can help you identify where in your body the damage is coming from in a way that is safe and exact. Through professional diagnosis, you will be able to find a solution for the troubles you face every day.

Sciatica is not as simple to diagnose as strep or the flu. There isn’t a simple cheek swap or blood test that will say that you have sciatica. However, doctors have several diagnostic options available to them. Doctors will take X-rays, cat scans or an MRI to look for spinal damage or pinched disks.

Doctors may perform lab tests to find out if the symptoms arise from an infection. Urine tests can weed out other possible causes of back pain, such as a kidney stone or kidney infection. Blood counts will also help them diagnose an infection that could cause symptoms similar to sciatica. 

A spinal tap will take a sample of spinal fluid, allowing doctors to look for signs of infection in the spinal cord and cancer cells. Doctors will often physically inspect the back for signs of external injury, like a lumbar herniated disc or bulging disc.

Doctors also use non-invasive tests to look for signs of sciatica. They will look for weak reflexes that accompany the pinched nerve or a loss of sensation. They will test your ability to move in all directions and trouble controlling your limbs. One tell tale symptom of sciatica is pain when lifting your leg from a seated position.

Another symptom of sciatica is pain or difficulty bending over to touch your toes. The doctor will check your medical history and possibly your family history. If you were injured on the job, you should tell the doctor so that your worker’s compensation records are combined with your medical records.Doctors will review your prescription history to ensure that the claims of sciatica back pain are not an excuse for medication to fuel a narcotic addiction.

How Sciatica Exercises and Stretches Can Help Sufferers?

When you need to know what types of stretches and exercises will be helpful, then you are probably suffering from pain. The painful effects of this condition may seem overwhelming, especially if you do not already have a care regimen in place. 

Being able to begin learning new training, exercises and stretches that will help you is the best way to take care of yourself immediately.The exercise you choose should give you relief from the painful effects which you find yourself suffering from.

Relief can be found through a rehabilitation program or on your own. Working with a sciatica exercise ball or with a trainer are both powerful methods that many people are embracing all over the world. Start off slowly and build up to a pace that you can handle without making your body feel more painful.

What Are The Best Sciatica Exercises or Low Back Stretches to Relieve Sciatica?

It is important to know how often one should do exercises for sciatica. Over working an injured body is no way to increase recovery, no matter what method you are using for your rehabilitation. You will need to treat yourself with respect and know that a body in pain is limited to the amount of work it should do. 

Bodies that are injured can only handle so much, so it is necessary that you do not overexert yourself while trying to get better.There is no magical set of low back stretches to perform. Instead, there are stretches that will loosen muscles that may make your sciatica worse and build up muscles that, when weak, worsen your condition. 

One of the simplest exercises you should perform is hamstring stretches. If you have sciatic pain, try the Pilates single leg stretch. Calf stretches and quadriceps stretches are useful if they are not done to excess. Arm reaches and leg reaches are excellent stretches for those with sciatica. 

You can perform the Hundred Pilates warm up if your sciatic pain is not caused by a pinched nerve at the base of the spine. If your sciatica causes tingling or pain in the knee, you may benefit from knee stretches. 

Go slowly, gradually increasing the number of stretches performed in a set and the number of times you do them.

Do not add weights while you doing stretches until your doctor advises you to do so.

If your sciatica worsens after long periods of sitting, get up periodically and perform a few stretches before you sit back down. This will have the dual benefit of helping resolve the sciatica long term while reducing your discomfort now.

The stretches in yoga may help your sciatica or worsen it, depending on the muscles involved. Poses like the fire log and the cat are beneficial for sciatica sufferers. Contortions of the back and spine are not. Avoid spine stretches and spine twists. 

Lower back stretching should be gentle, and never lean farther or add weight once tension starts or you become uncomfortable.

Walking is one of the best exercises for sciatica. If you cannot stand without pain, consider walking back and forth in a swimming pool to lighten the load on your legs while adding gentle resistance to the motions. 

Speak with your doctor before taking up aerobic exercises or running. Running generates more stress with each foot fall than walking.

When you know how many sciatica exercises one should do per workout, then you will be well on your way to recovery. Patients who stick close to the regime that they have been suggested will see results faster than those who stray from advice. 

Seeking an opinion from your doctor will help you to find relief in a way that best suits your needs.With constant repetition of the appropriate sciatica exercises, almost any person who is suffering from pain will be able to find the relief that they need to live their lives whole again. 

When you experience numbness and tingling in the body, then that is a dangerous sign that there is something wrong going on and you should seek immediate medical attention. Taking care of all of the nerves in your body is essential to maintain proper health and make you feel your best.

Who Can Teach You Stretches to Relieve Sciatica?

If you do not feel comfortable trying stretches to relieve sciatica based on their names, descriptions or YouTube videos, you have the option of consulting with a medical professional to teach you how to do them correctly.

A physical therapist or certified athletic trainer can show you how to perform these lower back stretches as well as recognize the symptoms of over-exertion. A chiropractor, doctor or spinal specialist can also help.

When Should I Seek Medical Advice When Performing Stretches to Relieve Sciatica?

If the pain suddenly becomes much worse or if you lose control over your bladder, seek medical attention immediately. 

If you are performing stretches and the symptoms shift from numbness to pain, stop the routine and see a doctor. 

If your numbness worsens to the point that you have trouble feeling or controlling a limb, seek medical attention immediately. 

If pain that was previously limited to one leg suddenly affects both legs, see your doctor. Lower back stretching may cause muscle tension and exhaustion, but it should never cause your pain level to increase or symptoms to worsen.

1. wikipedia.org
2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
3. webmd.com
4. mayoclinic.com
5. medicinenet.com
6. ninds.nih.gov
7. Sciatica
8. Chiro-Guideline
9. dmoz.org
10. annals.org

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