San Diego sciatic pinched nerve
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Sciatica and the Sciatic Nerve

The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English | 2009
sci·at·ic nerven. Anat. a major nerve extending from the lower end of the spinal cord down the back of the thigh, and dividing above the knee joint. It is the nerve with the largest diameter in the human body.

Sciatica is not a disease, rather it is a term that is used to describe the set of symptoms that occurs with a pinched sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve, running from the lower back, through the buttocks and down each leg, is the largest nerve in the body. When pressure or compression is placed on the sciatic nerve, your ability to perform normal daily activities can be greatly impaired.

What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

  • Pain that may affect only one side of the body; one side of the lower back or hip, outside of thigh and / or knee -- can be dull, burning or sharp pain
  • Pain may increase if you cough, laugh, sneeze, or bend backward
  • Deep pain that may increase with long periods of sitting or standing which put more stress on the lower back
  • Muscular weakness in lower extremities
  • Pain that begins in the lower back and radiates down into the lower extremities
  • Tingling and /or numbness that can radiate from the lower back, down buttocks and into legs
  • Changes in bladder or bowel functions. Incontinence or blockages which could be signs of cauda equina syndrome for which you need to seek immediate medical attention.

What Causes Sciatica?

Because sciatica arises due to a pinched sciatic nerve, there are many different conditions that can actually be the cause of sciatica. Conditions such as:

    Herniated Disc
    The most common cause of sciatica, the herniated, slipped disc, or bulging disc. A herniated disc occurs when fluid inside an intervertebral disc is itself compressed and presses outward into the spinal canal.

    Injury or Trauma
    Injury or trauma can occur to the back or sciatic nerve as the result of an accident causing swelling and spinal nerve compression or from a blow. Damage could be from a fall, sports injury or car accident, for example.

    A disorder that can affect the lumbar region of the spine, Spondylolisthesis is caused by a vertebral slipping. One vertebrae slips forward onto another.

    Tumors are actually quite rare but can occur as cancerous or non-cancerous growths formed inside the spinal canal. If tumors grow too large, they will require surgical removal.

    Piriformis Syndrome
    This syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle, located directly above the sciatic nerve, becomes swollen or spastic. This muscle can then interfere with or irritate the sciatic nerve.

What can be Done for Sciatica Pain Relief?

Most of the time sciatica, and back pain in general, respond well to conservative treatments and therapies. Most of these treatments can be done yourself but if physical therapy is required, work with a trained therapist to ensure the exercise forms and and stretches are done correctly.

Sciatica Treatment

    Depending on how severe your pain is, you may only require over-the-counter medications. Prescription drugs may be required for more severe cases of sciatic nerve pain. You should keep in mind that these medications are only masking the pain and you will still need to work on healing the back so that you are not reliant on medication for the rest of your life.

    Physical Therapy

    • Ice/Heat Therapy
      Reduction of swelling and pain can be aided by ice therapy. Heat therapy can also be used to reduce pain and increase blood flow into the affected areas.
    • Massage Therapy Massage can be very helpful if the pain is due to a muscular problem and massage is also beneficial for increasing joint mobility and promoting healing.
    • Chiropractic Adjustment
      San Diego Sciatica Chiropractic treatments consist of musculoskeletal adjustments and relief of pressure on the nerve via gentle spinal decompression.
    • Acupuncture
      This ancient healing practice helps the body release natural pain regulators, endorphins.
    • Ultrasound
      Ultrasound sound waves penetrate deep down into the skin which can serve to increase blood flow into affected areas which may aid in healing and pain reduction.
    • TEN's Units
      The TEN's unit is a small device that delivers electrical current to the body through electrodes placed on the skin. The gentle electrical impulses can help block pain signals from reaching the brain.
    • Stretching and Exercise
      Both of these can be used after the pain is managed. They can aid in reduction of pain by increasing the strength, flexibility, range of motion, flexibility, and stability of the back.

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