Definition and Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica is the common name given to neuralgia of the sciatic nerve. It is a sharp pain felt along one of the two sciatic nerves. Located along the back of the legs, the sciatic nerves are the largest and longest nerves in the body. The pain is most often unilateral, affecting only one side of the body.
Sciatica should not be confused with lower back pain (or lumbago), where the pain is usually in the lower back or upper buttocks.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica is not a disease but is the result of sciatic nerve irritation. The most common cause is a herniated disc that compresses the roots of the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica can also occur during pregnancy. This is because of the sudden weight gain in pregnant women, which causes bad back positions and a pinch of the vertebral disc. In rarer cases, sciatica can be caused by a fracture, an infection of the spine, or osteoarthiritis of the lumbar vertebrae.
What to do in the Case of Sciatica
Contrary to what one might think, bed rest is not the best thing to do in the case of sciatica. While some lie down when pain occurs, it is not recommended to stay in bed for more than two days. Physical activity allows for faster healing time. This is of course light exercise, such as walking, practicing caution (do not lift heavy objects or do sport), and being mindful of your back (do not bend too much).
Some actions can help to relieve sciatica. Is it advised to apply cold (using a bag of ice) or heat (using a hot towel) to the affected area several times a day.
Treatment: How to Treat Sciatica
Treatment of sciatica is done with the aim of reducing pain. Doctors will prescribe analgesics, such as paracetamol or tradamol, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that will help reduce inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica normally disappears on its own in one or two months. If this does not happen, surgery may be considered. This would be done with the aim of removing pressure on the vertebral disc. Surgery is only performed in 5% of cases, when sciatica is caused by a herniated disc.