40% of people will suffer with sciatica in their lifetime, but how can you avoid being one of them?
06 September 2019
Sciatica is a term many people are familiar with as up to 40% of people will experience it in their lifetime (NICE 2016). But what exactly is sciatica, what causes it and how can you prevent becoming one of them?
Typically, the pain associated with Sciatica is a sharp shooting or burning pain that travels down one leg anywhere from your buttock to your foot, it is commonly combined with other symptoms such as:
- Lower back pain
- Pins and needles and numbness
- Muscle weakness
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a name given to pain associated with irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is a large bundle of nerves that travels from your lower back and sacrum down the back of your leg.
Sciatica is a collection of symptoms which can have differing causes depending on your individual presentation, if you are concerned you have sciatica you should seek medical advice.
When Sciatica is an emergency?
In rare cases Sciatic can be a sign of something worse, if you experience any of the following symptoms it is important to go to A&E or call 999:
- You have sciatica in both legs
- You have a weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe and getting worse
- You have any numbness in or around your genitals and anus
- Your bowel or bladder habits are difficult to control, have increased in urgency or feel (and this is not normal for you)
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by a compression to the sciatic nerve somewhere along its pathway from the lumbar spine to the leg.
A chiropractor or medical professional can help you identify the cause of your sciatica.
According to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) about 90% of cases come from a herniated disc (“slipped disk”) in your lower lumbar spine.
However soft tissue and other joint injuries can also create inflammation around the nerve along its pathway, irritating the nerve.
Who’s at risk?
Sciatica can affect anyone of any age group, but peak presentation is in the 5th decade; other risk factors are strenuous high activity lifestyle, for example:
- frequent bending, heavy lifting or twisting
- jogging/running and impact activities
- whole body vibrations, ie. operating machinery or long periods of driving.
Sedentary lifestyles can also contribute to developing back problems and associated symptoms as well as general health, obesity and smoking.
What can you do to relieve sciatic pain?
Sciatica can be self-resolving in 4-6 weeks but this is often aided by lots of painkillers to moderate the pain. At Willow, a lot of our patients don’t want to rely on painkillers and want to find alternative, more natural ways to get better.
Symptoms vary from patient to patient, so treatment is designed for the individual’s unique history and current symptoms. However, the overall goals of treatment are the same; lessen symptoms by reducing irritation to the nerve, improve the health of the supporting structures and the spine and adapt lifestyle to enhance the healing process.
Tips to try:
- Our body’s like to move, try to stay active and avoid long periods of rest as this has been shown to increase pain.
- Avoid bed rest during the day.
- Carry on with your normal activities as much as possible.
- Gentle exercises and stretches of your legs and back, start gradually and stop if you feel increased pain.
- Massaging out tight muscles can also help take pressure off and reduce pain.
We can help
By Dr Pippa Seaton / Dr Matthew Freeman
Doctors of Chiropractic