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Sciatica

Pain, Age related illnesses, Joint disorders | January 13, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Pain, sciatica

Sciatica

It is estimated that up to 43 percent of the population will suffer the severe and debilitating pain of Sciatica. It is that deep, striking pain that can be felt running down from the lower back and down the back of the leg. The pain is usually unilateral, meaning that it affects only one side of the body.

The term “sciatic” literally denotes as being of or related to the hips. In its clinical context, sciatica is not an explicit medical diagnosis but rather describes the accumulated leg pain symptoms that is associated with or has origins at the hip region. In essence, sciatica in and of itself is actually a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

Anatomy: The Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the human body. It extends from a network of nerve branches in the lower back known as the sacral plexus, which is connected to the buttocks, as well as the Lumbar plexus, which is connected to the spine.

The sciatic nerve connects these branches and runs directly through the buttocks, into the thighs, down the legs and branches out at the feet.

The function of the sciatic nerve is to deliver nerve signals of movement and sensation directly from and to the muscles and skin of the thighs, lower legs and feet.

Symptoms of sciatica occur when this nervous pathway is disturbed by some or other irritation or compression at or near the nerve’s point of origin.

Symptoms

The development of sciatica nerve paincan be acute and sudden, however it is more common for symptoms to begin mildly and escalate over time. Sciatica usually presents with the following characteristic symptoms:

  • Unilateral pain localized at or near the buttocks or leg.
  • Pain that is aggravated by sitting.
  • Pain that burns tingles or is searing as opposed to a dull ache.
  • Numbness and/or weakness felt in the affected leg.
  • Difficulty moving the leg
  • Shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up or walk.
  • Pan that radiates down the entire leg, feet and toes, as opposed to just in the leg or any other isolated part of the leg.

Symptoms of sciatica can range from a simple infrequent irritation to a severe, constant and debilitating pain that can render the sufferer incapacitated.

Who suffers from sciatica?

Sciatica will rarely, if ever, affect persons under the age of 20. It is a condition that is commonly known to develop in people between the ages of 40 to 50 years; however, it is not unheard of for a person in their 20s or 30s to report symptoms of sciatica.

Many people are under the impression that sciatica is commonplace for pregnant women; this is not true.

It is however the case that pregnant women may be more susceptible to developing sciatica symptoms, not as a result of the baby putting pressure on the sciatic nerve as many believe, but rather as a result of possibly being more sedentary or developing bad posture during the pregnancy due to the added weight to the woman’s body.

Research also suggests that smokers are also at a higher risk for developing sciatica.

Causes

There are a number of diagnosable medical conditions that can be identified as actual causes for sciatica. These are usually medical conditions that  related to or affect the lower back and/or the spine in one way or another. It can be said that, whatever the underlying medical condition may be that is causing sciatica; the actual cause of sciatica will always be the resulting irritation or compression onto or near the point of the large sciatic nerve’s origin.

Conditions that may cause irritation or compression to the sciatic nerve include:

  • Lumbar Herniated Disc
  • Degenerative Disc Disorder
  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis
  • Tumor or growth
  • Lumbar Spinal Stenois
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Sacraliac Joint disfunction

Complications

It is quite a rare occurrence for sciatica to cause any further serious damage to a person’s health; often it is resolved with some primary level care and heals within a few weeks to a few months or even less. If sciatica is left untreated for too long it can potentially lead to some major complications such as permanent nerve damage.

Symptoms of complicated sciatica may present as the following:

  • Loss of sensation in the affected leg.
  • Weakness and prolonged numbness in the affected leg.
  • Uncontrolled bowel and/or bladder movements.

Treatment

Treatments for sciatica generally seek to alleviate symptomatic pain and discomfort associated with the condition as well as to cure or correct the root cause of symptoms.  A medical professional may recommend or prescribe pain medication to help ease the pain while further investigations are done to establish the underlying cause. In some cases, when sciatica is severe enough that immediate intervention is necessary, a doctor may recommend surgery.

Alternatively, for uncomplicated sciatica, there are some natural therapies that may be implemented as primary level treatment to either alleviate symptoms or even to treat the underlying cause. These therapies include:

Chiropractor Spinal Adjustments. A Chiropractor may perform a physical exam to diagnose sciatica and work with the patient to realign the spine with the aim of relieving pressure off of the sciatic nerve that may be compressed or irritated. This approach is only recommendable once the nature of the spinal injury has been established.

Yoga and Stretching. Lengthening the spine through Yoga or stretching exercises can promote the development of good posture and help to naturally realign the body. Yoga and stretching exercises also relieves stiffness and inflammation in the body. This is in contrast to exercises that bend or shorten the spine like squats or raising the legs, which tend to trigger sciatica.

Acupuncture. Acupuncture uses small specialized needles that target specific pathways in the body to release and open the body’s natural flow of energy. This is believed by traditional Chinese medical practices to help achieve and maintain overall health.  Acupuncture is an approved treatment for various kinds of chronic pain, including back pain.

Massage therapy. Massage therapy is a holistic approach that opens energy channels throughout the body. There are various types of massage therapy that may help relax the muscles and relieve the pain.

Exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can aggravate sciatica, especially for herniated discs. General movement lightens pressure from the hips and all other related underlying tissue system of the pelvic region. A specialized workout regimen that incorporates isometric exercise will help to realign the body, relive pain and improve the body’s overall strength.   

Turmeric can help sciatica as it is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. The active compound found in turmeric; curcumin, helps reduce nerve pain and inflammation.

Capsaicin cream. The active ingredient found in cayenne pepper called capsaicin incapacitates substance P; a neurotransmitter that helps the body to send out pain signals throughout the body. An ideal cream would be one that contains about 0.025% to 0.075% capsaicin.

Valerian Root  is an herb that relaxes the muscles that relives chronic nerve pain. It is especially helpful if the pain is making it difficult to sleep at night as it also works as a sleeping aid. Seeping the root in hot water and drinking it as a tea or taking a Valerian root supplement will give the desired effect.

White Willow Bark is a natural aspirin that relives pain. It is recommended for lower back and arthritis pain. The pnenolic glycosides with salicin that are contained in white willow bark provide anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits.

Jamaican Dogwood. This is a herb that is used to relieve nerve pain. Jamaican Dogwood is a potent substance that can be taken in supplement form.

St. John’s Wort Oil. The wort oil has anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. This makes it ideal for treating nerve irritation that may be caused by infection or inflammation. It regenerates nerve tissue and relives sciatica related pain.

Magnesium  supplements have been shown to significantly improve functional recovery in various neurological disorders, sciatica included. Magnesium can help relax the muscles and help with sleep. Try A Magnesium Soak Or Spray.

The bottom line

Sciatica is a fairly manageable condition with the right approach that seeks to treat the problem at the root cause. It is always recommended to check with a medical professional about symptoms, especially if these persist despite alternative treatment attempts or if the leg presents symptoms of numbness, weakness orthere is a loss of bowel or bladder functions.

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References

Ropper A and Zafonte R, Sciatica. N Engl J Med, 2015; 372:1240-1248. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1410151. www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1410151.

Konstantinou K, Dunn KM. Sciatica: review of epidemiological studies and prevalence estimates. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2008;33:2464-2472. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18923325.

Shiri R, Lallukka T, Karppinen J, Viikari-Juntura E. Obesity as a Risk Factor for Sciatica: A Meta-Analysis. Am. J. Epidemiol. 2014. doi:10.1093/aje/kwu007. aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/179/8/929.long.

Shiri, Rahman et al. The Effect of Smoking on the Risk of Sciatica: A Meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2016 JanÍž129 (1):64-73.e20. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2015.07.041. American Journal of Medicine, Volume 129, Issue 1, 64-73.e20. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26403480.

Haugen AJ, Brox JI, Grovle L, et al. Prognostic factors for non-success in patients with sciatica and disc herniation. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2012;13:183. bmcmusculoskeletdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2474-13-183.

Miwa S, Yokogawa A, Kobayashi T, et al. Risk factors of recurrent lumbar disc herniation: a single-center study and review of the literature. J Spinal Disord Tech. 2015;28:E265-E269. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23249886.

Gardner A, Gardner E, Morley T. Cauda equina syndrome: a review of the current clinical and medico-legal position. European Spine Journal. 2011;20(5):690-697. doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1668-3. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3082683/.

Kaushal M, Sen R. Posterior endoscopic discectomy: Results in 300 patients. Indian Journal of Orthopaedics. 2012;46(1):81-85. doi:10.4103/0019-5413.91640.www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3270611/.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21609904

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