Sciatica is a term given to the pain that shoots from the lower back, hips, buttocks and behind the thighs down to the leg along the path of the sciatic nerve.
It usually affects the person only on one side of the body.
Sciatica occurs due to the compression of sciatic nerve which can be due to various reasons like a prolapsed disk, bony growths (osteophytes) over the spine or narrowing of the spine.
There is swelling, severe pain and numbness in the affected leg.
Pain starting at the lower back and shooting down from the buttocks, hip joint, thigh and then to the calf along the path of the sciatic nerve is the main symptom of sciatica. Usually only one side is affected in sciatica.
The pain is worse when the patient moves the affected leg or coughs or sneezes. It can worsen more by sitting for a long time.
Numbness, tingling or weakness of the leg muscles may also be seen in the affected leg.
Sciatica occurs due to compression of the sciatic nerve. Sciatic nerve may get compressed due to various reasons like:
- A slipped disk in the slip
- Bony overgrowths (spur) on the vertebrae
- A tumor
- Diseases like diabetes.
- Age: the changes in the spine that take place with increasing age like slipped disk or bony overgrowths (spurs) commonly cause sciatica.
- Obesity: excess of body weight can put pressure on the spine leading to changes that can cause sciatica.
- Occupation: works that need exertion of the body like lifting, pulling, pushing, twisting of the back, driving for long periods can cause sciatica.
- Prolonged sitting: people who sit for long times due to their occupation or may be due to their sedentary lifestyle may come up with sciatica.
- Diabetes mellitus: people suffering from DM can come up with sciatica.
The diagnosis can be easily made by asking the patient to do certain easy activities like walking on his toes or heels, getting up from a squatting position and lifting the leg up one by one while lying straight on the back. If the pain increases during these activities then the person is diagnosed of having sciatica.
Other tests that can help to confirm the diagnosis are:
- X-ray: x-ray examination shows if there is any bony overgrowth in the spine which may be compressing the nerve and leading to sciatica.
- CT scan and MRI scanning: these tests show the changes in the bones and soft tissues like slipped disks and the condition of the nerves that are affected.
- Electromyography: this is done to see the response of the muscles to nerve impulses that are generated and sent by the nerves. This test helps to confirm the diagnosis of sciatica by showing whether the nerve is compressed by a slipped disk.
- Losing of body weight in those who are obese can help tremendously in reducing the complaints of sciatica.
- Cold or hot applications over the areas where there is intense pain can help in reducing the pain.
- Stretching exercises of the lower back can help to relieve the symptoms by reliving the compressed nerve roots.
- Avoid doing heavy works which puts more pressure on the affected side of the body.
The following remedies are commonly used in cases of sciatica.
- Pain in the sciatic nerve, extending to the knee or to the heel
- slightest motion and cold
- Paroxysmal pains followed by numbness and partial paralysis
- Sensation as if the thighs are bound with iron band
- Muscles are fearfully tensed and fixed
- Right sided affections
- Pains come up suddenly and go off suddenly
- Sticking and burning types of pains which are worse in the cold and at night
- Stitches during walking
- Intense neuralgic pains along the nerve with numbness
- Lying down, motion, stepping
- Sitting in a chair
- Pain extends to the toes
- Pain is intermittent, coming at every night at the same hour and becomes unbearable
- Vigorous motion, gentle motion
- Cold, warmth
- Pain is neuralgic
- Tearing and burning pains which are worst at rest
- Feels better for a short period of time during motion
- Lameness with muscular twitches
- It is the best remedy for a combination of lumbago and sciatica
- Indicated in rheumatic sciatica where the fibrous sheath of the nerve is involved
- Sciatica arising from wet weather or from lifting and over exertion
- Pains felt more in the region of the knees
- Pains at night and lying on the affected side
- Right-sided sharp-shooting pains extending to knee
- Worse by motion, the patient must keep quiet
- The pain is sudden, constant and intolerable
- Sciatica with aggravation of pain while sitting, somewhat relieved by walking and entirely relieved by lying down
- Pain in the left hip as if the tendons were too short
- Legs feel contracted
- Painful jerks, feet feel as if asleep
- Sciatica due to venous stasis
- Milder forms of sciatica when there is a sense of fatigue and heaviness
- Aching in loins and hips