About 40% of American adults will experience sciatica at some point in their lives. Sciatica refers to the pain caused by the irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body.
Inflammation and irritation of the sciatic nerve is common because, with time, most people develop slipped or herniated discs, causing them to bulge or leak fluid, pushing against your sciatic nerve and irritating it.
Herniated discs are often caused by aging, a sedentary lifestyle, and excess weight. However, slipped discs aren’t the only cause of sciatica — lifting heavy objects, poor posture, and health conditions, such as diabetes can lead to sciatica as well.
Fortunately, sciatica pain is often easy to treat and prevent. Here, Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, our expert at Premier Spine Institute, goes over some of the telltale signs of sciatica.
1. Tingling and a burning sensation
Tingling and burning could indicate that the sciatic nerve is sending too many signals to the brain. This is a sign of irritation. You feel these symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, upper legs, and lower legs.
2. Radiating pain
Because the sciatic nerve runs from the spinal cord down to your feet, when it’s irritated and inflamed, the pain isn’t localized in the back. It often radiates toward the buttocks and legs.
3. Numbness in the upper legs and buttocks
Nerves are responsible for sending signals to the brain. Once a nerve becomes inflamed or damaged, these signals get interrupted, which could cause numbness.
4. Weakness in the legs
Another function of nerves is to tell muscles how and when to move. When the sciatic nerve has been severely inflamed for prolonged periods, muscles in the legs decrease in size and become weaker.
5. Inability to control bowel movements
Your bowels are controlled by muscles. When your sciatic nerve becomes severely damaged, you lose muscle control, and this may cause you to lose control of your bowel movements.
This is often a sign of severe damage and is considered a medical emergency. So, if you’re experiencing this symptom, seek medical care as soon as possible.
Prevent and treat sciatica
Left untreated, sciatica can lead to several complications. One of these is permanent nerve damage, which in turn can lead to loss of sensation in the bottocks and legs, incontinence, and chronic pain.
Fortunately, you can improve your sciatica symptoms by making a few lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding sitting for prolonged periods, and avoiding heavy lifting.
If lifestyle changes fail to improve your condition, there are many sciatica treatment options available for you to consider. Dr. Ngu offers physical therapy, pain medications, and steroid injections to reduce your discomfort.
Contact us to schedule an appointment if you’re experiencing symptoms that don’t go away with rest.