What Is Sciatica and What Are the Signs?


Sciatica is pain that spreads down the lower back, hip, buttocks and legs, defines Mayo Clinic. Sciatica typically only affects one side of the body. Sciatica pain can be severe, but it is usually resolved after a few weeks of treatment.

Sciatica is generally associated with a herniated disk or a bone spur on the spine, explains Mayo Clinic. Coughing, sneezing and sitting for long periods may increase pain. Some also experience tingling, muscle weakness and numbness in the affected foot or leg. Pain levels of this condition vary from a mild ache to extreme discomfort. Mild sciatica often improves on its own.

Medications, physical therapy, steroid injections and surgery treat severe sciatica, states Mayo Clinic. Prescription drugs such as narcotics, anti-inflammatories, anti-seizure medications, muscle relaxants and tricyclic antidepressants typically treat sciatica. Physical therapy prevents injuries, corrects posture and strengthens back muscles after acute pain subsides. Steroid injections suppress inflammation around an irritated nerve root, and surgery is a last resort for sciatica that causes bladder or bowel incontinence or significant weakness.

It is possible that sciatica can cause permanent nerve damage, warns Mayo Clinic. Medical attention is required if loss of bladder or bowel function or loss of feeling or weakness in the affected leg occurs. Age, obesity, occupation and diabetes heighten the risk of acquiring sciatica.

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