The Sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in the human body. Injury or irritation to this nerve causes nerve pain known as sciatica. Five nerve roots together form this nerve. They include two from the lower back (lumbar spine) and three from the final spine section (sacrum).
The sciatic nerve is present on both the right and left side of the body and originates from the hip or buttock/gluteal area, goes down to the buttocks and legs and finally ends just below the knee. It merges with other nerves and continues to run down the leg to the foot and toes.
Sciatica, as a condition is rare, but the term is used to address any condition that causes pain in the lower back that is felt even down the leg. The common factors between actual sciatica and pain caused are-
- The lower back region has a compressed nerve.
- An injured nerve.
Mild to severe pain can be experienced anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve. Leg and foot muscles can also be weakened due to this condition. Other things that sciatica is likely to cause is numbness in the legs, tingling needle and pin sensation that is unpleasant in your leg, foot and toes.
The factors like how long the patient has symptoms, or whether one or both legs are affected determine the type of sciatica.
- Acute Sciatica
Generally, one can do without medical help if they have acute sciatica. It causes 4-8 week-long pain and can be self-managed.
- Chronic Sciatica
The pain caused usually lasts for longer than 8 weeks and self-management might not work after a certain limit. Whether to treat it surgically or non-surgically depends on what has caused it.
- Alternating Sciatica
It is a rare type of sciatica. It is caused by deterioration in the sacroiliac joint and affects both legs alternatively.
- Bilateral Sciatica
Bilateral sciatica is also a rarely found type and can be caused due to degenerative fluctuations in the vertebrae and/or discs at several spine levels. It affects both legs simultaneously. It can also lead to cauda equina syndrome.
The term wallet sciatica is used informally to pinpoint sciatica caused by sitting on a wallet. Proper diagnosis and treatment should be taken on a doctor’s advice.
Following are the symptoms that are caused by sciatica-
Pain can vary from constant to intermittent. The pain caused by sciatica often feels like a burning sensation or a sharp, shooting pain. Commonly, the calf area below the knee experiences more pain than the other parts of the leg.
- Altered Sensation
The back of the leg experiences a sensation of numbness or tingling feeling. Pins and needle sensation can also be felt.
The weakness in foot/leg accompanied by heaviness in foot and leg can cause difficulty to lift the foot.
- Pain with the change in posture
Postures play a role in sciatic pain. Sitting, trying to stand, standing for a prolonged time, bending/twisting the spine and coughing will worsen the pain. Laying down either makes the pain constant or slightly increases it. The patient can try sleeping in various postures which can help relieve the pain. Application of heat packs, walking and pelvic exercises can reduce the pain.
Several medical conditions cause sciatica such as-
- Slipped disk leads to pressure on the nerve root. Acting as a cushion, disks are present between all vertebrates. When it slips it causes the gel-like centre to bulge. If a slip-disk occurs in your lower back it adds pressure to the sciatic nerve.
- Natural wear and tear of the discs present between the vertebrae of the spine will shorten the height and the condition is known as degenerative disk disease. Spinal stenosis, which causes nerve passage to become narrower, leads to sciatic nerve roots being pinched as they leave the spine.
- The vertebrae are arranged in a structure. When one vertebra slips out and is asymmetrical to the one above it creates a very small space for nerve exit. The extension in the spinal bone pinches the sciatic nerve. This is known as spondylolisthesis.
- Osteoarthritis - Ageing spines and compression in lower back nerves caused by bone spurs.
- Trauma injury that is sustained to the sciatic nerve or the lumbar spine.
- The lumbar spinal canal can develop tumours compressing the sciatic nerve.
- Piriformis, a small muscle present in the buttocks can tighten or spasm causing pressure and irritation to the sciatic nerve. It is an uncommon neuromuscular disorder and is known as piriformis syndrome.
- Cauda equina syndrome is named after a nerve bundle at the end of the spinal cord which is called cauda equina. The syndrome can lead to leg pain, loss of control over bladder and bowel and numbness in the anus area. It is a rarely found condition that is serious.
The diagnosis starts with a review of medical history, symptom analysis, and a physical exam, wherein the doctor will examine how body weight is carried by your spine. The doctor might check the strength of calf muscles by asking you to walk on your toes/heels.
A test called a leg raise test may also be conducted where your doctor will raise both the legs one after the other while you lie on your back. Exact affected nerves and problems with one of the disks can be determined using this test. Muscle flexibility and strength are also checked.
The following tests may be suggested for further diagnosis-
- Spinal fractures, disk problems, infections etc need to be checked via spinal x-rays.
- MRI or CT scans help to see detailed visuals of bone and softback tissues. MRIs are most commonly used to confirm sciatica diagnosis.
- The condition of how electric impulses are travelling through the sciatic nerve and muscle response is checked using nerve conduction velocity studies.
- If vertebrae or a disk is the cause of pain then to detect that myelogram is advised.
Homoeopathy is known to treat the underlying root causes of any disease. Sciatica is mainly caused due to underlying problems like herniated disc, spinal stenosis etc. So homoeopathy has great treatment options for sciatica. Medicines prescribed are safe, natural and without any side effects.
Other advantages of homoeopathy include-
- Mental, physical and emotional treatment of the patient.
- Remedies that are long-lasting and effective.
- Safe for even pregnant women, newborns and seniors.
- Medicines have no chemicals.
Homoeopathy has a holistic approach to treating any disease which rejuvenates the patient's mind, spirit and body, thus, providing a great alternative to conventional treatment.