Figuring out what is causing you pain can be a tough thing to do. Perhaps you feel a pain in your back that’s also in your legs. Is it serious? Should you call a doctor? Should you take a couple of ibuprofen and not worry about it? When it comes to back pain, it’s usually best to be seen by a physician, so that anything serious can be ruled out, and you can get proper treatment. Sciatica is a condition that affects many patients and causes radiating pain from the back or buttocks that travels down the legs. If you think you have sciatica or already suffer from the problem, read on to learn a little bit more about the condition and how treatment is handled.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica is caused by compressed nerves or irritated nerves that are located just outside of the spine. The condition can manifest in several different ways, and some patients may not even experience abject pain, instead feeling a numb or tingling feeling that shoots down the back of the legs. A catalyst is the culprit when it comes to nerve compression or irritation, and physicians do their best to try to find the root cause of sciatica to treat it effectively. Common back concerns that can cause nerve compression and irritation include a herniated or slipped disc, bone spurs, narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis), or muscle spasms in the buttocks.
Some patients are simply going to be predisposed to sciatica due to genetic factors, but there are some things you can do to avoid developing herniated discs, muscle spasms, and other back problems that can lead to sciatica. Diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) have been linked to sciatica, so if a doctor has informed you that you are prediabetic or has some concerns about the development of type 2 diabetes, avoiding diabetes can also help prevent sciatica. This means keeping a close eye on your blood sugar and avoiding the overconsumption of white breads and grains, sugar, trans fats, and other sweets.
Obesity or being overweight is also linked to sciatica as excess weight can put pressure on your spine, causing a host of problems. Doctors suggest keeping your body mass index (BMI) within the normal range, as well as eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Exercise is also important. Not only does moving regularly help keep diabetes at bay, but it also helps to avoid gaining excess weight and supports your muscles and bones.
Protecting your back is also essential. Our daily lives force us into myriad situations that naturally put stress on our backs, such as sitting in an office chair for too long. Regular exercise can of course help with this, but adding lumbar support, adjustable controls, and armrests to furniture you use daily (e.g. investing in an ergonomic office chair), can help keep sciatica from occurring.
Should I Call a Doctor?
Sciatica can, in some cases, go away on its own. However, if tingling increases to pain or small amounts of pain suddenly become very painful, it’s best to call your physician right away. At NewSouth NeuroSpine, our dedicated team of medical professionals and doctors can give you a thorough exam to diagnose the problem. Sometimes MRI or CT scans are needed, as a thorough workup can help provide better treatment.
There are several different ways to treat sciatica, including physical therapy, injections, and activity modifications. If you’re diagnosed and seen by a doctor, your quality of life and pain level should improve after treatment, so you’re no longer in pain. In some more severe cases, spinal intervention or surgery may be needed. If you need more information about sciatica or other spinal problems or want a consultation, request an appointment with NewSouth NeuroSpine today. We also specialize in neurosurgery, orthopedic spine surgery, interventional pain management, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.