What does the sciatic nerve control
Sciatica: what it is and how to treat it
What is sciatica?
Sciatica (sciatica for short) refers to pain caused by the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve carries information from the brain through the spinal cord to the legs. These specific pains typically extend from one side of the lower back to the leg, often below the knee. The most common cause is protrusion of disc tissue beyond a certain level. Intervertebral discs are tire-like structures that sit between the bones of the spine. A herniated disc occurs when parts of the gelatinous nucleus protrude from the outer ring into the spinal canal and compromise or inflame the surrounding nerves. Sciatica mostly occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 50.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The symptoms of sciatica are usually worse when you sit or cough, and are often accompanied by numbness or tingling in the leg. A physical examination is carried out to find out whether the sciatic nerve is affected and to check whether there is any weakening or decreased reflexes in the legs.
Even if the causes of sciatica are usually not worrisome, you should still consult a doctor if you experience back pain and especially pain in the area of the sciatic nerve in order to get a clear diagnosis and to be able to treat the pain accordingly.
Diagnosing sciatica requires a thorough history of the disease and a specific examination of the patient. Imaging (such as MRI or X-ray) should only be prescribed if the pain is very severe.
How to treat sciatica
Treatment focuses on Pain management and on keeping those affected as active as possible.
In most cases, symptoms subside after a few weeks without any surgery or injections are required. However, if an operation is necessary, the disc tissue that hits the nerve and causes the pain is removed. However, 5-10% of those who have an operation do not feel any improvement after the operation, or even complain of worse pain.
A physical therapist can create a custom stretching and exercise routine and improve posture to take pressure off the sciatic nerve and thereby relieve back pain.
It has also been proven that practicing yoga regularly can not only relieve sciatica, but also prevent it. The best yoga positions are those that focus on the lower back and thighs and rotate the hips outward.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of yoga and how to get started, click here.
1. Herniated lumbar intervertebral disk. New England Journal of Medicine, May 2016.
2. Evaluating and managing acute low back pain in the primary care setting. Journal of General Internal Medicine, February 2001.
3. Disc extrusions and bulges in nonspecific low back pain and sciatica: Exploratory randomized controlled trial comparing yoga therapy and normal medical treatment. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation. April, 2015.
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