Leg pain can be constant or intermittent that may develop suddenly or gradually. It can affect the entire leg or a particular area, such as your shin or knee. The pain can be in the form of stabbing, sharp, dull, or tingling and aching. Other leg pain is annoying, while others can be severe that may affect your ability to walk or bear weight.
Common causes of leg pain are wear and tear, overuse, or injuries in the joints or bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other tissues. Other people described it as a growing pain that can be aching or throbbing in the legs. They are often in the front of the thighs, calves, or behind the knees. Other leg pain can be found as a problem in the lower spine but can be caused by blood clots, varicose veins, poor circulation, or pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica can affect both legs, but it usually occurs on one leg at a time. It is a matter where the nerve is being pinched along the spinal area.
Sciatica can occur suddenly or gradually, but it depends on the reason. A disk herniation can cause abrupt pain, while arthritis in the backbone grows gradually over time.
What Is Sciatica?
A real injury to the sciatic nerve called sciatica is rare, but it is a common term used to describe the pain that radiates down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg. It can be caused by irritation of the nerves of the lower spine. The pain can be severe or mild, which often builds up, resulting in wear and tear on the lower spine. Sciatica is mostly relieved through conservative ways within weeks without the need for surgery. One way to reduce the chances of getting lower back pain and other sciatica symptoms is to improve the back and core strength through increasing flexibility all through your hips and lower body.
Sciatica is a nerve pain resulting from trauma or stress to the sciatic nerve, which commonly starts from the buttock or gluteal area. The sciatic nerve is the thickest and longest nerve in the body. It comprises five nerve roots: two lumbar spines found in the lower back region, and three sacrum, located in the final section of the spine. These nerve roots go together to form a right and left sciatic nerve. One sciatic nerve is found on each side of the body. It goes front the hips through the buttocks and down the leg until below the knee.
Signs of Sciatica
Sciatica has a unique type of symptom. People with sciatica will experience pain from your lower back, going through your buttock area and into your legs. Since it results from damage or injury in the sciatic nerve, you will also experience other symptoms of nerve damage with pain.
- Pain that gets worse with every movement.
- Numbness or weakness of legs and feet in which if it gets worse, you may experience loss of feeling.
- Pins and needles sensation, accompanied by painful and tingling in toes or feet.
- Feeling of incontinence, which is the inability to control your bladder.
What Causes Sciatica?
Several conditions involve the spine and can affect the nerves along the spinal column, causing sciatica. Some of the common injuries resulting from these causes are injury from falling, spinal, or sciatic nerve tumors.
The vertebrae or spinal bones are separated by cartilage full of thick and transparent material, adding flexibility and cushioning as the person moves around. The herniated disk occurs when the first layer of cartilage tears. The substance inside can compress the sciatic nerve, resulting in numbness and pain on the lower limb.
Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the lower spinal canal that creates pressure on the spinal cord and sciatic nerve roots.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition where the vertebrae or spinal bone can extend forward over another, resulting in the sciatic nerve’s pinching.
It is a rare neuromuscular disorder where piriformis muscle contracts involuntarily, causing sciatica.
Sciatica is commonly diagnosed by a doctor performing examinations of the back, hips, and legs while taking the medical history of the patient. Through the test, they can determine the health, flexibility, awareness, and reflexes.
Other tests may include:
- MRI scans
- CT scans
- Nerve conduction studies to determine the health or disease of a nerve
Treatment Options For Sciatica
Sciatica improves unexpectedly, so the treatment mainly focuses on improving symptoms and relieving pressure. The common sciatica treatments are:
Upon the first diagnosis, your doctor will give you tips on how to treat sciatica pain. Continuing your daily activities is probably one of them. You should avoid lying in bed or refrain from doing activities that may worsen your condition. The following are commonly suggested at-home treatments.
- Cold. Use of ice packs or a package of frozen veggies.
- Hot. Use of hot packs or a heating pad.
- Stretching. Stretching your lower back properly with the help of a personal physical therapist, or doing yoga.
- Regular exercise. If you are active, your body releases more endorphins, which are known pain relievers.
- Over-the-counter medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, oral steroids, or epidural steroid shots to relieve soreness.
- Epidural steroid injections. Anti-inflammatory steroids are delivered at the source of irritated sciatic nerve roots.
- Spinal Decompression. It is strengthening the muscles around the spine as an aid in preventing further occurrence of sciatica.
- Surgery. Surgery is used if the sciatic nerve pain is severe, and there is no relief while using conservative treatments.
- Alternative treatments. Alternative medicine has made its way as an option to treat sciatica.
- Acupuncture. An acupuncturist performs this procedure using sterilized needles at critical points to affect your body’s flow of energy.
- Chiropractic. With the help of a chiropractor, your spine can be manipulated to obtain maximum spinal mobility.
- Hypnosis. Professionally trained individuals use hypnosis to put you in a very relaxed and focused state of mind. This allows you to receive healthy suggestions and instructions.
- Massage. A massage therapist applies motion and pressure to your body to relieve pain and tension.
Risk Factors For Developing Sciatica
Several factors can make you susceptible to sciatica. It commonly affects athletes and those who have stationary activities. Individuals who have a sedentary lifestyle will likely develop sciatica compared to active people. But athletes who overworked and stiff muscles may also experience sciatica.
Another factor will be the age, especially those who are in their 30 to 60s. Adults may experience age-related degeneration in their spine, including herniated discs, bone spurs, and joint dysfunction in the hips. Having diabetes or being overweight can also increase your risk of nerve damage.
Leg pain can happen to anyone at any time. There can be different possible causes and symptoms, but sciatica is one of the pains that can be easily identified. Most people consider home remedies as they work fast where you don’t have to see a doctor. Sciatica can go back at any time, so you should know how to prevent it from occurring again. Consider frequent exercising, minding your posture, and keep in mind your physical movements.