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If you are experiencing pain that radiates down to the back of your leg, associated with numbness and tingling sensations that crawl to your foot, you are most likely experiencing sciatica.

Your sciatic nerve runs in your spine, through your hips, buttocks and branches down to your legs. This is the longest nerve in the body and has a direct effect on your ability to move, control and feel your legs. When the sciatic nerve is irritated, you experience the pain called sciatica.

Sciatica is not a condition but a symptom. It is a sensation that manifest as a moderate to severe pain in your back, hips, buttocks and the legs. Some people also experience numbness and weakness in the affected areas.

When a patient suffers from sciatica, the pain is often caused by a more serious underlying condition or injury. The problem could be traced back to your muscles or spine.

Causes of Sciatica

There are a number of conditions that cause you to suffer from sciatica. The four common conditions are below.

Herniated Discs

Your spine is composed of tiny interconnected bones called vertebrae. These bones are connected or separated by pieces of cartilage filled with thick and clear material which helps cushion your spine while moving around. It also contributes to your flexibility.

Herniated discs occur when the cartilage – particularly the external layer starts to rip. This causes two vertebrates to come in contact and create friction. It can also compress your sciatic nerve and result to lower limb numbness and pain. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimated that one out of fifty people will experience herniated disc at some point in their lifetime.

Lumbar Stenosis

Lumbar stenosis is also called spinal stenosis. It is characterized by the narrowing of your spinal canal due to different conditions you might have. The narrowing of the space where your spinal cord resides applies pressure on the sciatic nerve and causes sciatica.

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis Syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder in which your muscles contract involuntarily. Because the piriformis syndrome can cause for your back to feel tight and restricted, sciatica becomes a symptom of this disorder. This condition becomes worse when you sit for many hours, continue to live a passive lifestyle or experience trauma and injury.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is one of the associated conditions of degenerative disc disorder that causes sciatica. When one of the vertebra extend forward over another, the extended bone can constrict the sciatic nerve. This is often called “pinched nerve” and is common among older adults.

Diagnosing Sciatica

It is important that you see your doctor if you start feeling numbness or sharp pains on your back to your hips and legs. You will most likely undergo a physical exam with a complete medical history.

Some physicians will also request for other tests like X-rays, CT scans, electromyogram and MRI. These help define the exact cause of the sciatic pain.

Duration of Sciatica

The duration of sciatica is depended on its root cause. As degenerative lumbar stenosis, back strain, herniated discs, piriformis syndrome and spondylolisthesis can all lead to temporary forms of sciatica, each of them can also cause the problem to become chronic.

Addressing the pain alone will only give you a short-lived relief. It is therefore crucial that you treat the main cause of the pain. You also need to speak to your doctor to determine if surgical interventions are needed.

Seek Medical Attention

Back, hips and leg pain often goes away quickly. However, there are instances when you just need to see your doctor for it right away. Here are the symptoms you need to watch out for.

  • Back pain is felt after days or weeks after a severe injury or accident
  • You feel a sudden and sharp pain at your lower back whenever you move your body.
  • The pain is associated with leg and hip weakness.
  • The pain disrupts almost every hour of everyday, to the point that you are unable to sleep, hold your bladder or control your bowel movement.

Sciatica can be prevented to some extent by avoiding back injuries. To do this, you must stay fit and strong. Apply strength training exercises to your back, hips and leg muscles so that your body can frame itself well.

Conditioning exercises like Pilates and yoga can also improve your muscle stretched and prevent injuries to your lower back.