Sciatica is common, affecting up to 40% of the American population. It’s the common name for the medical condition called lumbar radiculopathy and its symptoms can range from mild to disabling.
The good news is that most cases resolve themselves with time and rest, though there are some instances that require major medical intervention. Knowing the risk factors for sciatica may help you avoid the condition altogether, although sometimes an issue is unavoidable.
When you’re impacted by the symptoms of sciatica, consider a visit to Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center in Phoenix for assessment and treatment. No matter what the severity of your sciatica, there’s an answer to help you live free of pain.
Caused by nerve compression occurring at the spine, sciatica is often one of the most common examples of referred pain that people experience. Though the physical issue is located in the central lower back, the symptoms can be felt anywhere along a sciatic nerve’s length. This is substantial, since branches of the nerve reach to your feet.
Usually, only one side is affected at a time. Though some symptoms can be shared with other conditions, the most common sciatica complaints are:
- Pain in the lower back, often accompanied by other symptoms and sensations
- Tingling or numbness along the path of the nerve, often through the buttock and rear of the thigh and calf on the affected side
- Muscle weakness
The type of pain you feel can cover a wide range, from dull, aching pain to sharp, electric-shock sensations, often accompanying sudden movements, coughing, or sneezing. You may also feel that your lower back mobility is impaired. Sciatica pain is usually aggravated by long periods of sitting.
Risk factors for sciatica
Your risk factors for developing the condition can be roughly classed into two categories: things you can modify and things you can’t. For instance, you can choose to stop smoking, but you can’t help getting older, both of which increase your chances for having sciatica.
Other modifiable risk factors include:
- Obesity: carrying extra pounds changes the mechanics of your spine, making nerve compression more likely
- Occupation: your job requires heavy lifting and twisting movements
- Sedentary lifestyle: inactivity can lead to weak core muscles, transferring extra load to the spine
Non-modifiable risks include:
- Arthritis: any degenerative joint condition can affect the lumbar vertebrae
- Previous injury: trauma to the spine can affect bone and disk tissue
- Pregnancy: hormones affect the strength of ligament tissue during pregnancy
- Congenital factors: spaces in the spine through which nerves pass may be smaller due to genetic reasons
The most common cause of sciatica is from herniated disks. Age, activity, and injury can all contribute to disk herniation.
Treatment for sciatica typically starts with conservative methods, such as rest, hot and cold compresses, gentle stretching, physical therapy, and non-prescription pain medication. Treatments advance until sciatica pain disappears. Only in rare, extreme cases is surgery necessary.
Contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center for the most thorough treatment of your sciatica issues. You can book an appointment by calling the office directly at 602-536-5019. Pain and other symptoms of sciatica can be resolved, so schedule your visit now.