The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve of the body -it starts at the nerve roots in the lumbar spinal cord and then goes all the way to the lower limbs. It’s also the nerve that causes excruciating pain the most often. It’s often an intense low-back pain, that can radiate down the back of the thigh and to the knees.
In severe cases, a person with sciatica will be unable to walk because of the intense pain. For some people – but not all – the pain gets better when lying down. Apart from pain, patients might experience a tingling sensation between the lower back to the knee, numbness or a burning sensation.
Oftentimes, people describe the pain as “10 on a scale of 1 to 10” – meaning, it’s a very, very painful condition.
Causes Of Sciatic Nerve Pain
By far the most common cause is a herniated disk that is pressing directly on the nerve. Other possible, but less common causes can be an inflammation in the area, infections, tumors, internal bleeding or other bones that press on the nerve. Spinal stenoisis, piriformis syndrome, pregnancy and sacroiliac joint dysfunction are also possible causes.
If you sleep on a very soft mattress, you should replace it with a stronger one. In most cases though, it’s a herniated disk that is caused by putting improper strain on your body – for example sitting with an unhealthy posture for extended periods of time, pregnancy or being overweight. In the case of pregnancy, it’s most often because the uterus is pressing against the nerve – and the pain will disappear once a woman has given birth to her baby.
Also, make sure that when you sit, you don’t have a wallet or another item in your back pocket. Even though a wallet might only be half an inch thick, it causes your body to sit out of balance and distributes your body weight unevenly, which can – if done habitually over many months and years – lead to sciatic nerve pain.
In most cases doctors prescribe pain medication to make the condition more bearable. Sometimes (depending upon what causes the pain) medication can also be used to relax muscles or reduce an inflammation. The problem with medication is that if it only treats the symptoms, it won’t help to solve the problem itself. So that means once you stop taking the medication, you’ll have the same problem again – but continuing to take the medication permanently will most likely lead to other health issues, because of side-effects. (In fact, medication is toxic to your body – taking it temporarily is acceptable, but if you need it long term, it can very well do more harm than good).
In many cases bed rest has been the treatment of choice by doctors. But a recent scientific study found that bed rest doesn’t really help. It is basically a way of “waiting for it to get better” – which it will often do by itself, unless a person does extreme movements or puts strain on their lower back.
Physical therapy is also often used and has shown to be a good way to accelerate the healing process. In extreme cases, when the sciatic nerve pain persists over long periods of time and is caused by a compressed nerve, people sometimes opt for surgery. There are two main kinds of surgery: lumbar laminectomy and microdiskectomy. Success rates tend to be comparable, but microdiskectomy tends to be a bit less painful.