Sciatica – it gets on your nerves

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SCIATICA is the name given to any sort of pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks, and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet.

The severest pain of sciatica is usually felt in the buttocks and legs, and most people find it goes away naturally within a few weeks, although some cases can last for a year or more.

Symptoms

When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it can cause pain; numbness; a tingling sensation that radiates from your lower back and travels down one of your legs to your foot and toes, and weakness in the calf muscles or the muscles that move the foot and ankle.  The pain can range from being mild to very painful, and may be made worse by sneezing, coughing or sitting for a long period of time.

While people with sciatica can also have general back pain, the pain associated with sciatica usually affects the buttocks and legs much more than the back.

See your doctor if your symptoms are severe, persistent or getting worse over time.

Your doctor can usually confirm a diagnosis of sciatica based on your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment

Causes

In the vast majority of cases sciatica is caused by a slipped disc. A slipped disc occurs when one of the discs that sit between the bones of the spine (the vertebrae) is damaged and presses on the nerves.  It’s not always clear what causes the damage, although as you get older your discs become less flexible and more likely to rupture.

Treatment

Most cases of sciatica pass in around six weeks without the need for treatment.

A combination of things you can do at home – such as taking anti-inflammatory painkillers for any back pain, staying active and exercising, and using hot or cold packs – may help reduce the symptoms until the condition improves.

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