Living Life with Sciatica

If you suffer with sciatica, you know all too well the insidious pain it brings. You probably even shuddered just reading the word, remembering your last bout. It’s terrible, and good luck finding any position that alleviates that deep, electric ache! Giving you sleepless nights and debilitating days, sciatica well deserves its reputation as one of the most persistent and persnickety ailments ever to afflict humanity.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica refers specifically to the pain felt in your lower back, butt, and/or hip resulting from the pinching of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve branch in your body, running all the way from your lower back down to the bottoms of your feet. It touches in and through your hips, into your buttocks, and down the legs.  It’s also one of the most embedded nerves of the body, intertwined with muscle, ligaments, and bone, which makes it very susceptible to injury from a number of sources. The pain from sciatica can be sharp and severe, or a low, dull ache and can include tingling or numbness in one or both sides of the body. This pain can have a tendency to radiate down into your extremities as well.

Sciatica pain is most often the result of a herniated disc in your lower back, also known as your lumbar region. When vertebral discs start to wear down, from age, disease, or repetitive motion, the jelly-like material in between the discs starts to “leak out,” causing the disc to herniate. This puts pressure on the nerves clustered around it.

Risk Factors for Sciatica

There are a few risk factors that can make you more susceptible to problems with sciatica.

Having a job that requires medium to heavy lifting can lead to the inflammation and injury that causes sciatica. On the other hand, too much sitting at work can begin to pinch the nerve, especially if your glutes are not as strong as they should be. These risks don’t have to occur over a long stretch of time, either. You might encounter a bout of sciatica after a long car ride, or if you’ve been improperly lifting boxes after a move.

Another risk factor is being overweight or obese. When you carry extra weight on your body, especially in the stomach area, it puts you more at risk for a herniated disc, and therefore, more at risk for developing sciatica. Pregnancy and diabetes put you at risk, as well.

Treating Sciatica

The good news is that even though sciatica is uncomfortable, it usually goes away fairly quickly without surgical interventions. If you are experiencing sciatica, you can treat the pain with OTC medications, cold and heat therapy, and stretching exercises.

The biggest misconception about sciatica is that your body needs to rest motionless for it to go away. This is not true. In fact, the more you keep your body moving, the better! Stretching (particularly opening up your hips), walking, and building up your core strength can help you reduce inflammation and get some relief.

Here at CCSS, our goal is to share as much information with you as we can, in order to empower you to make the best decisions about your health. As always, we are here to answer your questions, help you figure out the best treatment plan, and get you feeling better as soon as possible so that you can live your most ideal life. If you are suffering from sciatica and it isn’t going away, let us know; we will help find a personalized treatment plan.

Dr. Donald Hope