Sciatica is pain caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve. It is usually caused by a compressed nerve in the lower back.
Most sciatica cases are caused by a slipped disc. The slipped disc may put pressure on your nerve. In rare cases, the nerve may be compressed by a tumour or damaged by a disease such as diabetes.
If you have sciatica, you are most likely to feel lower back pain that radiates down through the hip and buttock, and down one leg. The pain may worsen when you sit, cough or stand. Your leg may also feel numb or weak. These symptoms may appear suddenly, and last for days or weeks.
Make an enquiry if you suspect you are suffering from sciatica pain.
Diagnosing and Treating Sciatica
A physical examination is the most common way of diagnosing sciatica. To help your doctor determine if the sciatic nerve is irritated, your doctor may ask you how the pain started, and where it is located. You may also be asked to perform various activities, such as:
- Walking on toes or heels
- Rising from a squatting position
- Lifting your legs one at a time while lying on your back
If you have sciatica, your pain will likely worsen when performing these activities.
Your doctor may also request for additional tests, such as an x-ray or MRI, to get more information about the location and cause of your sciatica. This can help your doctor develop an appropriate course of treatment for you.
Most sciatica cases improve with self-care measures. To relieve your pain and avoid future injuries, your doctor may recommend the following treatments:
Placing a hot or cold pack can relieve sciatic pain. Apply it for one to two weeks. Stretching for at least 30 seconds may also help you feel better.
Your doctor may prescribe painkillers to provide short-term relief from sciatica.
In some cases, your doctor may inject steroids into the area around the sciatica nerve to reduce pain.
To manage your pain and prevent future injuries, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. He or she will design a rehabilitation programme for you, which includes exercises to correct your posture, strengthen the muscles supporting your back, and improve your flexibility.
Surgery may be an option for people whose condition did not improve or have worsened despite treatment. The surgery will address the cause of the pinched nerve and relieve the pressure put on it.