Sciatica is one of the most common sources of back pain complaints. Unfortunately many people think they "have sciatica" and never get treated for the underlying causes of the pain. Although the pain one feels from a pinched or compressed sciatic nerve is quite real, sciatica is your body's way of telling you that something else is wrong and needs to be treated.

Specifically 'sciatica' refers to a set of symptoms related to a problem with, or an area surrounding the sciatic nerve. Once you understand that, you can stop chalking back pain up to sciatica and get to your doctor to find out what's causing your sciatic pain.

What Can Cause Sciatica?

There are many reasons that a sciatic nerve may become pinched, irritated or compressed, and those reasons are what must be treated to get rid of the pain and related symptoms.

One cause of sciatica can be a herniated disc, which presses down on the sciatic nerve. Excess weight due to obesity or pregnancy may also place undue pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Piriformis syndrome may also irritate the sciatic nerve as it travels a similar route down the body. The piriformis muscle is located in the gluteal region, which passes the sciatic nerve which travels from the lower back, down the hip and legs to the feet. This is why sciatica symptoms often radiate down to the feet.

Many back problems, such as spinal stenosis, and illnesses or diseases that occur near the path of the sciatic nerve can cause sciatica.

Do I Have Sciatica?

How can you tell the difference between everyday back pain and a problem with a sciatic nerve?

The one thing that differentiates sciatica from other forms of back pain is that it is punctuated by a tingling sensation, numbness and muscle weakness. This pain may be isolated to one spot along the nerve, or it can radiate up or down the nerve. The pain may be sharp or dull, depending on the cause of the injury to the nerve.

Although most sciatica sufferers experience pain located on either the left or the right side, some patients have reported feeling symptoms on both sides. This pain can occur when standing or sitting and it can worsen during either activity.

A trauma such as an injury or accident may cause a direct injury to your sciatic nerve.

Can You Prevent Sciatica?

The best way to prevent an injury to your sciatic nerve is to do things that promote back health. Unfortunately not all causes of sciatica are preventable, but by participating in certain activities and taking preventive measures, your risk will diminish considerably.

Exercise helps build and strengthen muscles which reduces your chances of weakened muscles being furthered injured by trauma. Regular exercise should include stretching and strength building so that you improve muscle strength while also releasing tension in the muscles.

Good posture is an excellent way to prevent back problems as poor posture is one of the main causes of back pain. Your back should be straight, aligning in a 'S' curve that is natural to the spine. Hunching or slumping places unnecessary strain on back muscles, which causes pain.

Proper lifting can greatly reduce injuries to the sciatic nerve. It isn't just how you lift, but also how you bend over to lift an object. Over-extended legs or lifting with the back instead of the legs can cause the immediate tingling of the sciatic nerve.

Back pain tools can help prevent sciatica symptoms if you engage in activities likely to cause said symptoms. For example if you sit at a desk all day long a lower back pillow and ergonomic office equipment can keep your posture straight and prevent injury to the sciatic nerve. A firm mattress is another preventive tool that will lessen your risk for symptoms of sciatica.

Treatment For Sciatica

Treating sciatica is about treating whatever the underlying cause that is irritating the sciatic nerve. Simply treating the pain or the tingling won't do anything to prevent symptoms from recurring, you must treat whatever caused the compression to the nerve itself.

Take note of other physical symptoms you present with along with sciatica symptoms prior to your physician's visit. This information will help direct your doctor to the proper diagnostic method, which will aid in finding the proper treatment for sciatica symptoms.

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