What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a very troublesome medical condition which is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. This is the biggest nerve in the human body, running from the sacral plexus to the feet. It is characterized by a pain radiating from the lumbar vertebrae in the lower spine, into the leg. Sciatica can surprise us at the most unexpected moments, for example, when lifting even light objects from the floor, or making the bed. The pain which accompanies sciatica may occur in powerful attacks, therefore making it impossible for the sufferer to move in any way, and totally limiting the ease of daily life. Each movement causes radiant pain, meaning it is difficult to either sit or walk, along with the completion of everyday chores. The reoccurrence frequency and length of the affliction are very different and highly dependent on both the cause, and whether the sufferer took care of their physical wellbeing by applying remedial measures.

Symptoms of sciatica

The main symptom of sciatica is a strong piercing pain in the lumbar vertebrae on one side of the back, sometimes radiating through the buttock of the sufferer and into the lower limbs. Other symptoms of sciatica include:
  • tingling and numbness of differing parts of the body
  • weakening of muscle strength
  • pain when lifting lower limbs whilst in a lying position, and while bending
It is worth being aware of these symptoms as they are the ones which can help distinguish sciatica from regular back or nerve root pain.

Causes of sciatica

The largest group of sciatica sufferers are over 30 years old. Additionally, pregnant women also suffer from it occasionally – carrying a baby causes pressure on the lumbar nerve. Unfortunately it is not easy to identify just one cause of sciatica: it is confirmed by radiological and neurological examination of the spine. In cases involving young people, we need to look for an explanation regarding posture flaws or excessive burden bearing, often associated with physically active people. Additionally, excessive weight can be a cause of sciatica. In such cases the spine is excessively burdened and stops effectively dealing with the stress.
One of the most common causes of sciatica is an improper posture when sitting. Often spine degeneration is the cause of sciatica, which is not surprising considering that few people care about having a correct body posture, or adjusting our workplace to our needs. Sciatica can be caused by injuries from car accidents, falls, a hit in the lumbar/sacral curve, as well as tumors which cause pressure around the nerve. Another cause of sciatica can be the slipping of intervertebral discs, which as a result of the injury can slip from the vertebrae and cause pressure on the nerve. As a result of intervertebral disc pathology, vertebrae are displaced and move forward, causing sciatica. Piriformis syndrome can be a cause of this medical condition (sciatica). 15% of people have a nerve running through the piriformis muscle, unlike the majority who have the nerve running under the piriformis muscle. Those people are more at risk from sciatica than those who have the nerve under the muscle. When the muscle contracts it can cause the irritation of the sciatic nerve. It is worth noting that this syndrome might be developed due to prolonged time periods in a sitting position. Seemingly pedestrian activities such as keeping your wallet in the back pocket of your trousers can cause symptoms of sciatica. Sitting on a wallet can create additional pressure on the muscle and nerve. In some cases sciatica can be caused by extended exposure to cold temperatures in the sacral and lumbar regions of the spine. Therefore it is crucial to always to keep your back warm and covered, and stay away from drafts. People suffering from meteoropathy are at risk of an intensification of sciatica pain during sudden changes in the weather.

Excessive sitting has a devastating influence upon the spine. Other causes of sciatica are, among others, internal bleeding and infections. On rare occasions sciatica is caused by inflammation of the lumbar nerve (common for alcoholics and diabetics), a lack of vitamin B, infectious diseases, pelvic tumors, and colds. Overall, we can conclude that everything that irritates nerves can be a cause of sciatica. Unfortunately, everyone can suffer from this condition; therefore we need to try to take care of our spine and proper body posture on a daily basis as flaws in our posture can be a cause of this painful medical condition.