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Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)


Know the basics

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is just the pain caused by nerve when it is damaged or pinched. Nerve is the longest nerve in the body, starting from spinal cord to hips and going down to the back of the leg.Sciatica is a symptom of nerve diseases rather than a separate disease and usually disappears after 4 to 8 weeks of treatment.

How common is sciatica?

Patients are usually the elder, chronic diabetes and obese people. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

The symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness, muscle fatigue or weakness and tingling from the waist down to the buttocks and down to back of the leg. Usually it occurs only in one leg (including the foot or partial foot).
  • The symptoms get worse when you walk, bend, sit long, cough or sneeze, but it gets better when you lie.
  • The pain can be mild and pains, burning or stinging and extreme pain.
  • Severe sciatica can make walking difficult or even impossible to walk.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Pain or aches after resting or after using painkillers (medicines without specified).
  • The pain lasts more than 1 week or heavier.

You need to be hospitalized right away if you:

  • A sudden severe pain or numbness, muscle fatigue in the lumbar, leg;
  • Have pain because you suffered from serious injuries such as traffic accidents;
  • Trouble controlling defecation or urination.

If you have any symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes sciatica?

The cause is usually protruding spinal disc and pressing directly onto the nerve. The disc is made of a jelly-like substance surrounded by a hard layer of fibers outside. The disc has the task of reducing shocks for spine, but in some cases it may overlap hernia and nerves.

Other causes include: osteoarthritis cause nerve irritation or swelling; even it is more rarely being inserted nerves by tumors, muscle; bleeding, infection and complications from injuries such as hip fractures. Spinal stenosis pressure on the nerve can cause sciatica.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for sciatica?

There are many risk factors for this disease such as:

  • Old age: spine condition, which is due to old age such as disc herniation and spinal column are the most common cause of sciatica.
  • Obesity: Excess weight increases the pressure on the spine thereby contributing cause of sciatica.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can increase the risk of nerve damage.
  • Sit long or sedentary: sitting for long periods or have sedentary increases the chance of getting more sciatica. 

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is sciatica diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose sciatica based on medical history and physical examination of your symptoms. The tests and other tests are usually not necessary, however, your doctor may ask tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other tests if your symptoms persist after treatment and doctors are considering the surgery for you.

How is sciatica treated?

Treatment for sciatica depends on the cause and pain level. In some cases, you can recover without treatment.

Treatments without surgery include:

Apply hot or cold on sore spot. You should ice within 48 to 72 hours, then use hot compresses.

You can use drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Your doctor can also give you a muscle relaxant medication, steroids or oral epidural steroid injections.

If you have severe pain, you may need stronger medications containing narcotic in a short time. Your doctor will recommend alternating hot and cold massage to reduce muscle ache and tingles. However you should note that all painkillers and swelling have side effects. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may cause stomach upsets, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, headaches, dizziness, difficulties in hearing or rashes. Muscle relaxants can cause drowsiness, dizziness or rash.

Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy practice combined exercise to help relieve pain.

If all the above methods are ineffective and symptoms become severe, you will need surgery to remove the bone branch or part disc is pinched sciatic nerve.

Read more: Herniated disc

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sciatica?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this disease:

  • Take your medicines as prescription.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Do not be so painful that reduce activities. The more sedentary you have, the worse your situation is
  • Stretches and exercises every day. You can ask doctor guides the exercises accordingly.
  • Sit or stand correctly.
  • Do not give up. If you do not feel better, ask your doctor about special treatment.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


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