A sharp, shooting pain moves across your back and down into your leg. Or you feel a consistent, dull ache that causes the sensation of numbness to move through your thigh and into your calf. This is not a normal backache. It’s definitely not a charley horse. You may be experiencing sciatica, a pain caused when the sciatic nerves become compressed or irritated in the plexus, the bundle of nerves on the outside of the spine. This is not a pain that you have to endure. Typically, sciatica only lasts a month or two, but in severe cases, there are options for treatment. If you find that you are susceptible to back pain, it’s important to know ways you can prevent sciatica from affecting you.
The Road to Sciatica
In most cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disk or a bone spur in your spine. This type of bone spur is a bone overgrowth of your vertebrae. It is rare, yet possible, for the sciatic nerves to compress as a result of a tumor or become damaged due to diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that alters the way your body processes blood sugar. This can dramatically increase your risk for nerve damage. Obesity also puts you at risk for nerve damage as the excess weight you carry puts pressure on your spine. Herniated disks and bone spurs are most common in older adults, so increasing age can also put you at risk for sciatica. People who have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to get sciatica than those with an active lifestyle. If your occupation includes sitting or driving a vehicle for long periods of time, your risk may increase as well.
Sometimes, preventing sciatica is not possible. However, there are several habits you can incorporate into your life to help protect your back. The first is regular exercise. Strengthening your abdominal, leg, and back muscles foster proper alignment and posture. Maintaining good posture while you sit is also important. When choosing an office chair, pay attention to lumbar support, armrests, and an adjustable base so that your hips and knees remain level. If needed, place a pillow at the small of your back to protect the normal curve of your spine. When you stand for a long period of time, rotate resting your foot on a box or stool. Use good body mechanics when lifting a heavy object by bending at the knees while keeping your back straight. Do not bend at the waist, which strains your back muscles. Instead, rely on your leg muscles to do the work. Avoid twisting while simultaneously lifting an object.
When to Call a Doctor
In most cases, sciatica will go away on its own—even without treatment. But if your pain increases or leads to a loss of sensation or strength in your legs, contact your doctor immediately. Early diagnosis can help prevent permanent nerve damage. At NewSouth NeuroSpine, a physical examination and sometimes testing with an MRI or CT scan will diagnose sciatica. Depending on the cause of the pain, our physicians will create a treatment plan that is best for you. Medication, physical therapy, activity modifications, and injections are usually sufficient forms of treatment to reverse the pain. Severe cases may require surgery. Our physicians at NewSouth NeuroSpine are experts in physical medication, spinal intervention, and spine or neurosurgery. Our spine specialists will work hard to help you manage your pain and determine an effective form of treatment.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians. If you are at risk for sciatica and have an increasing pain in your lower back, buttocks, and legs don’t wait any longer to visit NewSouth NeuroSpine. We are Mississippi’s Spine Center.