Sciatica is the condition of feeling symptoms, including pain, which is the result of the pressure or irritation of nerve roots on sciatic nerves.
There are many different symptoms for sciatic nerve pain, but most of the pain can be felt in the lower back, buttocks, and legs and feet.
When a person suffers from sciatic nerve pain, they may find it actually difficult to move their leg or foot.
What is interesting about sciatic nerve pain, however, is that it usually only affects one side of your body. So while one of your legs may feel painful and difficult to move, the other one won’t.
Another interesting fact about sciatica is that it is not a true diagnosis. Instead, it is a series of symptoms, and thus requires different treatments for each symptom.
Some treatments will be different for the varying levels of pain that sciatic can have on a person.
However, there are also many different causes for sciatic nerve pain, and for some of these causes we do not yet have the best treatment suited for that cause.
The most common cause of sciatica is spinal disc herniation. In fact, an overwhelming majority, around ninety percent, of all cases involving sciatic nerve pain involve spinal disc herniation.
Spinal disc herniation is where pressure is applied directly applied to the sacral and/or lumbar nerve roots. This can lead to the swelling of surrounding tissues, tears in the disc, and subsequent swelling and inflammation.
Another cause of sciatic nerve pain is lumbar spinal stenosis, where the spinal canal compresses the spinal cord and sciatic nerve roots.
Of course, the spinal canal does not simply do this on its own. It only compresses the spinal cord when bone spurs, inflammation, swelling, or a herniated disc develop.
These causes can take away the space the spinal cord has, meaning that the nerves of the spinal cord will feel painful when they are pinched and irritated due to the less and less amount of space that they will have.
Pregnancy is about cause of sciatic nerve pain. The fetus can press against and apply pressure to the sciatic nerve.
While no pain or anything will be applied to the fetus, it will be applied to the mother, and can cause a feeling of numbness in the legs and feet. So far, there is no known treatment for sciatic nerve pain resulting from pregnancy.
Sciatic nerve pain can also result from pain in the piriformis muscle, which is overall a very rare cause of sciatic nerve pain but still affects some people.
Pain in the piriformis pain will result in pain in the area of the lower back and buttocks.
The piriformis muscle will often shorten due to disturbances, which is what causes the actual pain. As the piriformis muscle shortens up, the sciatic nerve also compresses.
This pain only gets worse when we put items in our back pocket, like a wallet, for example. When we sit down on a chair with a wallet in our back pocket, it will compress the muscles in the buttocks, and as a result also compress the sciatic nerve.
You might not have thought that sitting down could cause pain in the sciatic nerves, but it’s true.
These are only the most common causes of sciatic nerve pain. There are other causes as well, but they are nowhere near as prevalent.
Such examples include loss of energy, weakness in the muscles, spinal tumors and trauma, or back pain that travels all the way down to the feet.
How to tell if you have sciatic nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain will always be diagnosed by your doctor. When diagnosing whether or not you have sciatic nerve pain, they will give you a thorough examination and ask for any symptoms you currently feel or have felt.
They may also perform x-rays if they feel it is necessary. Most often, doctors will be able to tell if you have sciatic nerve pain but asking if you feel pain in one leg or foot but not the other (since remember, most of the time sciatic nerve pain only affects one side of the body).
Doctors may also run a series of tests to confirm if you have sciatic nerve pain or not. Studies have shown that tests run to diagnose sciatic nerve pain are correct ninety percent of the time. Many of these tests are imaging and computer tests.
What do I do if I have Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Not to worry, there are things you can do to manage the sciatic nerve pain in your body. You can follow treatments prescribed to you by your doctor.
Most of these treatments should take about two months before the benefits of them start to roll in.
A significant portion of treating sciatic nerve pain, including in the foot, will involve getting plenty of rest, elevating your legs and feet, and seeing a physical therapist.
There are many different types of medicine that can be applied for sciatic nerve pain as well. So far, there is inconclusive data as to whether or not muscle relaxants and opioids have any effect on treating sciatic nerve pain.
Studies have shown that so far, steroids do not have much of an effect on sciatic nerve pain.
Another option for treating sciatic nerve pain is surgery, but as with any foot pain, this should always be treated as a last resort if none of the other treatment options work.
Surgery has been shown to help sciatic nerve pain, however, including removing part of the disc that is painful or removing tumors and abscesses that are also causing uncomfortable levels of pain. Most of these surgeries will have long term over short term benefits as well.