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Get the Skinny on Sciatica

Many parents have told their kids that they’re on their last nerve. The bolder of those children could ask, “Which nerve?” Because if it’s the sciatic nerve, at least they know they’ve got more time than others — as it is the longest one in the body. For sciatica sufferers, however, they’re already well beyond being on their figurative last nerve. The pain can be debilitating.

It is estimated that around 40% of people will experience sciatica during their lifetime.

What is Sciatica and What are the Symptoms?

Sciatica is a chronic condition that occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed. Direct traumatic injury, a medical condition, or a spinal condition are the most common culprits. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms can be varied, but always painful.

In addition to severe pain, sciatica symptoms can include a tingling sensation, weakness, and numbness in the calf, foot, or toes. The pain can be so overwhelming it prevents foot movement, bending knees, walking, going from sitting to standing, and in the most severe cases, it can trigger loss of bowel and bladder control.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Coughs and sneezes increase pain
  • Mild to sharp, burning pain in the affected area
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Pain from the lower back and spine and down the leg and on one side of the body
  • Tingling

3 Common Sciatica Triggers and Exacerbators

Footwear: From wearing high heels to shoes lacking cushioning or support like flip-flops, your sciatic nerve takes a beating. The good news is that avoiding footwear like that and getting shoe inserts can help alleviate pain.

Sitting: Too much sitting can worsen sciatica pain. It puts significant pressure on glute muscles, lower back, and the sciatic nerve. Moving around gives the sciatic nerve the chance to recover, stretch and allow blood flow to return. Integrating movement into your workday can help — options at the office include everything from short walks to standing desks. At home, you can get up and move at your leisure.

Also, keeping anything in your back pockets can put unnecessary pressure on your piriformis muscle, which is right next to the sciatic nerve.

Bodyweight: We’re all about being body positive until it starts to interfere with your health. Unfortunately, being overweight can cause recurring sciatica pain, primarily when it’s carried in the mid-section of the body. Stretching, core strengthening, and reducing the amount of weight carried in the core can ultimately reduce sciatica pain.

Getting Sciatica Relief

At Beacon, our specialists can help determine if you have sciatica and can work with you to get to the root cause. It can often be successfully treated without surgical methods. Pain-relieving treatments include medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy. When these methods fail, your doctor will discuss appropriate surgical options with you. Schedule an appointment with a Beacon specialist today.

Further Reading

Dr. Aarti Singla Discusses Sciatica & Non-Surgical Treatment Options
What’s Your Type? Understanding Your Kind of Back Pain
The Case of Acute and Chronic Back Pain: When to Seek Consultation