This blog post was updated for content on November 16, 2020. Existing comments have not been removed or edited.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is one of the most common types of pain, with up to 40% of people having it in their lifetime. Usually, it also becomes more of a problem as you get older.
Sciatica occurs when the nerve in the lower back is compressed or irritated, causing pain that radiates down the hip, outer side of the leg, and the back. In some cases, sciatica can also cause tingling and numbness in the legs and feet. Although sciatica is common and treatable, it can be quite painful, and in severe cases it can be debilitating.
Sciatica is linked to a variety of medical conditions, including:
- Narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, which is also known as lumbar spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
How is Sciatica Diagnosed?
The key symptom associated with sciatica is a pain that starts in your lower back and travels down one leg. In some cases, this pain also radiates into your foot.
To diagnose sciatica, your doctor will ask questions about the pain that you are feeling, and where the pain is located. Other common questions when diagnosing sciatica include:
- Lifestyle Questions: Do you sit for long periods of time? Do you do any heavy lifting or highly physical tasks as part of your job?
- Exercise Habits: Do you have an active or inactive lifestyle?
- Frequency and Duration: How often do you have pain and how long does it last? What helps the pain go away, and which activities worsen it?
A physical exam will be done, and your doctor may ask you to do exercises or movements to determine which postures make your pain worse. Some cases require x-rays or other tests.
How Knee Pain and Sciatica May Be Connected
Sciatica describes pain, pins-and-needles, or lack of feeling in the legs that is caused by damage or pressure to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve extends from your toes all the way up to your lower back. Because this critical nerve travels through the back of your knee and controls muscles in that area, problems with it often lead to knee pain.
If you are experiencing knee pain, you are certainly not alone. Among adult American chronic pain patients, 1 in 5 (19.5 percent) report knee pain, making it the second most common pain condition in the United States. To consider treatment, first it is important to assess your pain’s severity. At-home strategies are often effective for mild to moderate joint pain. However, for moderate to severe cases, care and expertise of a medical professional may be necessary.
Knee Injury Treatments
If your knee has been strained or sprained, the standard recommendation for immediate treatment is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). It is important to note that the components of the RICE method work as an integrated strategy. Rest so that you knee has time to heal. Apply ice or a cold compress to bring down the inflammation. Wrapping the joint in a compression bandage will also help to reduce the inflammation that may stimulate nerves and lead to pain. It is important to make sure that the compression is loose enough to maintain a healthy circulation. It is also helpful to elevate the injury so that less blood enters the region, lowering pain and swelling.
How is Sciatica Treated?
Some cases of acute sciatica can be addressed by self-care measures. Examples of these options include:
- Rest and taking a break from usual daily activities
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen
- Exercises including light stretching and walking
- Hot or cold compresses
In some cases, sciatica-related pain can be severe and may require more long-term treatment measures, such as physical therapy. Physical therapy can also help people with chronic sciatica symptoms. In physical therapy, you will learn exercises and techniques to help relieve the pain on your own. It can also help to improve your pain for longer term relief that can help to avoid sciatica “flare-ups.”
Managing Sciatica at Home
Using proper body mechanics and safe lifting techniques — keeping the back straight while bending the knees to pick up items — can help ti reduce the chance of aggravating sciatica.
These self-care tips can also help:
- Doing stretching exercises can keep your back muscles healthy and strong
- Maintaining a healthy body weight can help you reduce back and hip pain
- Yoga has been shown to help, as yoga increases your flexibility and help strengthen your body if done regularly.
When to Seek Medical Care
If your sciatica pain does not improve after several days, or seems to be getting worse, contact your doctor for an appointment. If you’re experiencing sciatica pain for the first time, getting early care and treatment is important.
If you’re suffering from joint pain, resting and stretching may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. Flexogenix® specialized in non-surgical solutions for treating chronic joint pain, arthritis pain, and joint injuries. Contact us today to schedule a no-cost consultation and let us show you how we can help you find freedom from your joint pain.