Sciatica is the name given to pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Anything that irritates this nerve can cause pain, ranging from mild to severe. Sciatica is usually caused by a compressed nerve in the lower spine. It commonly occurs by spinal degeneration, such as spinal stenosis or slipped disc. Sciatica most commonly occurs in adults in the 20 to 60 years age group.
There are several factors that increase the likelihood of developing sciatica, which includes pregnancy, overweight, smoking, disc herniation, trauma, slipped vertebra and spinal tumour.
the nature of pain is mild to very severe and can occur suddenly or appear gradually. It is described as a cramp-like pain that can be burning or sharp in nature and is typically felt in the lower back and hip, and going down the back of one leg. It may be associated with sensations such as pins and needles, tingling, numbness and weakness. Pain may be aggravated by specific actions, such as sneezing, coughing, lifting or sitting.
In order to diagnose sciatica, detailed medical history needs to be taken and physical examination including movement analysis and functional limitation needs to be assessed properly. Radiography, computerised tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be recommended in some cases in order to assess the nerves, discs and spine in detail.
A person having sciatica may take the following steps to relieve them from the pain:
• Continue all normal activities as much as possible. Avoid activities that causes hurts the back or increase pain
• Regular back stretching exercise as suggested by a physiotherapist
• Apply hot compression in the painful areas for 10 to 15 minutes
• Avoid sitting or standing for a prolonged period
• Make sure you have a good posture when sitting and standing
• Use chairs that provide good back support and are designed to provide a good sitting posture
• A lumbar roll or contoured cushion can help to provide lower back support
• lose weight if you are overweight
• Quit smoking. Smoking can increase the risk of getting sciatica
• Always practice safe lifting techniques. During lifting, bend the knees and keep your back straight. Hold the object close to the body. The further away the object is from the body, the more stress is put onto the lower back.
Physical therapy is often very useful in management of sciatica that includes manual exercises, manipulation and mobilisation of spine, neuro-dynamic stretching, sciatic nerve stretching and introduction of core stability exercises to prevent further injury.
There are several factors associated with lower back pain and sciatica is one of them. However, there are a number of measures that can help to prevent it occurring or reduce the likelihood that it will recur. Therefore, accurate examination and early diagnosis will help individuals to prevent and manage sciatica pain and associated symptoms.
The writer is the Head of Outpatient Services at Proyash, Dhaka Cantonment.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org