What is sciatica?
The sciatic nerve controls the back of your knee and lower leg. It gives sensation to the back of your leg as well. If something presses on this nerve, you may feel pain, tingling, or numbness down one or both legs.
These feelings can last for a few weeks. If any of these symptoms lasts for more than a week or significantly worsens, contact your doctor. Sciatica can come and go.
Sciatica is often caused by a herniated disc in your spine that presses on the sciatic nerve. There are other possible causes including:
Note that sometimes sciatica occurs without a determinable cause.
Anyone can get sciatica. Most people who have sciatica first get it between the ages of 30 and 50.
Diagnosis for sciatica
Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose sciatica. To diagnose you with sciatica, your doctor will ask about your medical history.
Treatments for sciatica
Most cases of sciatica will heal without a doctor’s attention and do not require medical treatment. In some cases, you may need additional medical care.
If your pain is severe or does not resolve in a few weeks, your doctor may give you a cortisone injection to help. They may also recommend physical therapy.
Doctors may recommend surgery for people with sciatica that lasts for longer than three months. The most common type of sciatica surgery is when doctors remove a portion of a herniated disc to prevent it from pressing on the nerve.
You can usually treat sciatica at home using cold and hot compresses and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Remaining active and doing stretches also helps to relieve sciatica pain.
The following exercises are known to help alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with sciatica.
Knee to chest stretch
Step 1: Lie on your back on the floor or on an exercise mat.
Step 2: Put a flat cushion or book under your head.
Step 3: Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
Step 4: Keeping your torso relaxed, bend one knee towards your torso and pull it towards you with your hands. Don't pull too far. If it feels uncomfortable, back off a little bit.
Step 5: Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Step 6: Repeat on the other leg.
Step 7: Repeat on both legs up to three times.
Sciatic mobilizing stretch
Step 1: Lie on your back on the floor or on an exercise mat.
Step 2: Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet on the floor.
Step 3: Pull one knee in towards your chest.
Step 4: Hold the back of the leg with your hands.
Step 5: Straighten the knee until you feel a stretch.
Step 6: Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Step 7: Do the same thing on the other leg.
Step 8: Repeat up to three times.
Step 1: Lie on your stomach on the floor or an exercise mat.
Step 2: Rest on your elbows, propping up your torso, with your forearms flat on the ground.
Step 3: Push down on your elbows to extend and stretch your spine. This will cause you to arch your back and stretch your abdominal muscles.
Step 4: Hold for five to ten seconds.
Step 5: Relax and return to the starting position.
Step 6: Repeat up to ten times.
Risks and complications of sciatica treatments
You can usually treat sciatica at home. Any over-the-counter or prescription medication may have different side effects. Consult your healthcare provider about possible complications of any medicines you might take to treat your sciatica.
You should also contact your doctor if your symptoms last over a week and your home care methods don't work.
Seek immediate medical care if your sciatica starts after some kind of physical trauma or accident or if it causes you to lose control of your bladder or bowels.
Mayo Clinic: "Sciatica."
National Health Service: "Exercises for sciatica."
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