By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer
Some may get sciatica at some stage or other during their active years. Sciatica or sciatic pain starts on one side of the lumbar spine (lower back), and radiates down the back of one of the lower extremities. You never experience sciatic pain bilaterally.
It is a pain resulting from pressure or irritation of the sciatic nerve, a large nerve extending from the lumbar region, along the back of the thigh and supplies motor fibers to the muscles of the thighs and legs. The picture (courtesy WebMD) shows the position and the distribution of the sciatic nerve.
At early stages the pain may be mild and tingling or burning down the leg. It is more common due to irritation of the sciatic nerve at its root. If it was inadequately treated at this stage, weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or the foot may be noticed.
Shooting pains make it difficult to stand up from the sitting position. Lying down in bed in certain positions the pain may subside. Sciatic pain originates suddenly; most times you are not aware how it originated. Most situations it lasts for a few weeks and disappears, to recur again, with similar trigger movements.
Most people who get sciatica are between the ages of 30 and 50. Women develop the problem during the time of pregnancy due to pressure on the sciatic nerve from the developing uterus. The worst situation is after bending with the knees kept straight and lifting some heavy object, or in older people due to degeneration of the lumbar vertebrae.
Unless you seek specialist treatment, the condition could be debilitating and become permanent. Proper examination by a specialist is required with necessary investigations to diagnose and management
These disks also get weaker as you age and become more vulnerable to injury. These disks have a collection of gel in the center (core) and invariably get pushed out (herniated) through its outer lining and presses on the roots of the sciatic nerve. In most situations the local symptoms are minimal and may subside within weeks to recur on further similar flexion movements of the spine.
Learn to flex at the hips and knees before bending to lift objects. This relaxes the hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh, joining the hip bones to the back of the upper tibia bone, at the knee joint.
These steps can help you avoid back injuries that may lead to sciatica.
If you find it difficult to control your bladder or bowels you need to see a specialist without delay. Bowel and bladder controls are done by nerves of the autonomic system and pressure damage to those nerves may be the cause of such symptoms. Another late complication of sciatica is weakness and wasting of muscles of the lower extremity on the side that is affected. Loss of sensation of the skin also may be observed in certain areas.
Protecting your spine
Most people do sedentary jobs and at weekends do much work at home, like washing the car, cleaning the garage, mooring the lawn, and so on. These activities can cause back aches and injuries and fortunately they are temporary. Regular workouts at the gym will help to prevent such wreckage. Exercising with an inflatable ball could be most beneficial to become mobile to prevent back injuries. The bottom line is, keep your spine mobile by doing the proper exercises.
Do most of the spine exercises in the supine position when the spine is completely at ease. Avoid bending down (flexing) in the upright position with knees straight. Always bend your knees and at the hips when you pick up heavy objects.
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