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Understanding Sciatic Pain: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Understanding Sciatic Pain: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

What does sciatic nerve pain feel like? And how can it be treated? These are some common questions for people who are worried that their back pain might actually be sciatica.

Despite being an uncommon cause of back pain, a lot of people suffer from sciatica. But sciatia, for the most part, is not serious and can usually go away on its own.

Regardless, the pain can sometimes cause a lot of discomfort, so do not hesitate to get in touch with your physician if it gets too much.

what does sciatic nerve pain feel like

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve, which goes from the lower back to the hips and down each leg. When this nerve is compressed, pinched, or inflamed, then it can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in the buttocks or down the leg.

The most common culprit for sciatica is a slipped disc or what doctors call disc herniation. This happens when the disc, or cushion in between the bones of the spine, get pushed out. If the slipped disc pushes against the sciatic nerve, then it can cause a lot of pain, especially when coughing or sneezing.

It is also possible for one of the bones of the spine to slip out of position, which can cause a pinched nerve. In some cases, a back injury can cause inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which causes sciatica.

Bone spurs, or a tiny outgrowth of bone can also cause sciatica if it starts to push against or pinch the sciatic nerve.

Diabetics are also at risk of sciatica because of the nerve damage that diabetes can cause. Additionally, obese or overweight people are also at risk because of the added weight that compresses the spine.

This condition is most common among people aged 30 to 50. However, older people might also suffer from sciatica as a result of certain age-related conditions.

What Are the Signs of Nerve Damage?

What does sciatic nerve pain feel like?

When the question of “What does sciatic nerve pain feel like?” comes up, the answers can widely vary.

The pain caused by sciatica usually radiates from the lower back, to the buttocks, and sometimes down to the legs. The pain ranges from a dull ache, to a sharp pain, and in more severe cases, excruciating pain.

Coughing, sneezing, or sharp movements can sometimes make the pain worse, and sitting for long periods of time aggravates it even more.

In most cases, the pain can cause some discomfort, but is tolerable. But for more serious cases, it is possible for the pain to become unbearable, and might require strong medication, or even surgery to help with the pain.

It is not uncommon for people with sciatica to also feel some numbness or even muscle weakness in their leg. Sometimes one leg can feel numb, while the other leg feels weak.

It is possible for sciatica to go away on its own, as most cases of sciatica do. But there is the possibility of permanent nerve damage, and it would be a good idea to get in touch with your doctor if the pain lasts for a long time, or starts to become unbearable.

If left untreated, sciatica can cause loss of feeling in the leg, weakness, end even loss of bowel or bladder function if it gets worse.

How can it be treated?

Now that we know the answer to the question of “What does sciatic nerve pain feel like?”, it’s time to discuss what you can do about it.

Treatment for sciatica varies depending on how severe the pain is, as well as what is causing sciatica in the first place.

For minor discomfort, or if the pain is still bearable, over-the-counter painkillers are usually prescribed.Your doctor may also order medicines to relax the muscles (muscle relaxants).

Afterwards, your doctor will ask you to monitor your symptoms, and check back in if they get worse.

Using hot or cold compress can also help, as well as avoiding activities that worsen the pain.

If you experience chronic sciatica, or if the pain starts to interfere with your daily life, then other forms of treatment might be necessary.

More advanced treatment for sciatica might include the following:

  • Physical therapy to help with the pain and improve mobility
  • Epidural steroid injections (medicines that numb the back or reduce swelling)
  • Surgery to fix slipped disc that causes the sciatica

Generally, the prognosis for sciatica is positive, and most people recover without any side effects or lingering problems.

How can it be prevented?

Here are some tips to help with preventing sciatica:

  • Be sure to maintain good posture. Keeping your back straight while sitting or standing can help prevent sciatica and back pain in general.
  • If you are obese or overweight, it would help to lose some weight. The added weight puts strain on your spine, which can cause sciatica. Losing weight can help with this.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, or 150 minutes each week. Exercise helps strengthen your muscles, especially those supporting your spine. This can help prevent sciatica.
  • If you have a back injury, try to avoid exercises or activities that could hurt your back.
  • Try to keep yourself safe from falls. Even something as simple as slipping and falling on your buttocks can cause injury, which leads to sciatica.
  • If you are a smoker, try to quit as soon as possible. The nicotine in cigarettes reduce blood supply to the bones, which can weaken the spine and vertebral discs.

Following these tips should help ensure that you can lower your risk of developing this condition.

Learn more about the brain and nervous system, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Sciatica – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sciatica/symptoms-causes/syc-20377435, Accessed September 14, 2020

Sciatica – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sciatica/, Accessed September 14, 2020

Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention & Pain Relief, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12792-sciatica, Accessed September 14, 2020

Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1895638/, Accessed September 14, 2020

Sciatica – symptoms, pain relief, treatment – Southern Cross NZ, https://www.southerncross.co.nz/group/medical-library/sciatica-symptoms-pain-relief-treatment, Accessed September 14, 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 17
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.
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