What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a painful condition that can be caused when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or injured. It can range from annoying to debilitating pain. But there are ways you can relieve the pain and even prevent further sciatic injuries.

The Sciatic Nerve

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve starts in the buttocks area and runs through the hips and down the back of both legs to the heel and the soles of your feet. This nerve is the connection from the spine to your muscles and skin of thighs, legs, and feet. This nerve controls the motor and sensory functions of your upper legs, lower legs, and feet. The sciatic nerve stimulates the muscles of your legs, causing them to move and flex. Sensory nerves carry messages to the brain of touch, pain, position sense, temperature, and vibration.

What Causes Sciatica

Sciatica can be caused in a number of ways. You can twist wrong, you can sneeze wrong, or you can pick something up wrong, among other causes. An injury to the sciatic nerve itself is rather rare. Common causes for sciatica include:

  • A herniated or slipped disk is the most common cause. When this occurs in the vertebrae of the lower back, it can press on the sciatic nerve.
  • Degenerative disk disease. Over time, the discs between the vertebrae of the spine can wear down.
  • Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which narrows the space for the nerves to pass through.
  • Osteoarthritis causes bone spurs that compress lower back nerves.
  • Spondylolisthesis is the slippage of one vertebra, causing it to become out of line with the vertebrae above it. This narrows the opening and can pinch the sciatic nerve.

The Symptoms of Sciatica

Sciatica can start suddenly or slowly. It can range from an annoying pain to being very painful. Sciatica can become so bad it is difficult to walk. The symptoms of sciatica can include:

  • Mild to severe pain in the lower back, usually on either the right or left side just above the buttocks, where the back meets the pelvis.
  • Mild to severe pain in the buttocks and or down the back of one leg.
  • Numbness in the buttocks, affected leg, or foot.
  • Muscles spasms in the muscles of the affected leg.
  • Pins and needles feeling in your legs, feet, or toes.
  • Pain in the affected area with movement.
  • Pain in your lower back area when you sneeze or cough.

How to Prevent Sciatica

Sometimes getting sciatica is not preventable. Accidental falls, degenerative disc disease, and pregnancy can cause sciatica. But there are ways you can lower the risk or even prevent getting sciatica. Preventative measures include:

  • Staying at a healthy weight. Being overweight can put an extra strain on your back and vertebrae that can lead to sciatica.
  • Eating a healthy diet full of vegetables, fruit, and other plant-based foods can lower inflammation throughout your body and increase the blood flow to the spine.
  • Regular exercise and stretching are crucial for a healthy back. Exercises that strengthen your core muscles like the legs, abdomen, buttocks, and lower back will help to support your spine.
  • Maintain good posture when sitting, standing, and walking. Core exercises will help you maintain a good posture as those muscles become more toned.
  • Be careful when lifting anything. Even bending to lift light objects can cause damage to your back if you lift it wrong.

Treating Sciatica

If you start feeling pain in your lower back and in your leg, there is a good chance you could have hurt your sciatic nerve. Apply ice to the affected area. This area is usually the lower back, either the right side or left side, where the back meets the pelvis. This is where the sciatic nerve roots are located. Ice will lower the swelling and inflammation, which will reduce the pain. Pain is a warning sign that your body could be out of alignment.

If your body stays out of alignment, sooner or later you could seriously hurt your back and sciatic nerve. A chiropractor can align your spine and relieve the pain from sciatica. You don’t have to live with the pain of sciatica. Give us a call today at 205-637-1363 so you can start doing the things you enjoy again without the pain of sciatica.

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