Sciatica is a painful condition involving irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve located in the leg. The sciatic nerve is a collection of nerve roots that exit the spinal column in the lower back. It is said to be the largest single nerve in the body supplying sensation to the entire lower section including the legs, buttocks, foot, hip and knee.
Statistics show that sciatica affects 10-40% of the population over the age of 40. Sciatica can develop long after trauma or physical stress injury has been done to the spine. Over time, degeneration to the spine may cause the vertebra to compress onto the sciatic nerve, causing the symptoms of sciatica.
For the most part, sciatica usually improves after only 4-6 weeks of non-surgical treatment. However, about 33% continue to experience persistent symptoms for up to a year.
signs & symptoms
Sciatica may present with any or all of these symptoms:
- Neuralgic pain in the back of the thigh, calf, and foot
- Pain extending into the hip
- Numbness, tingling, and weakness in the leg/foot
- Difficulty moving or controlling the leg
- Knee and ankle jerks may be reduced
- Symptoms typically affect only one side of the body
Some of the common reasons why sciatica develops include:
- You injured your spine in the past, which is now compressing on the sciatic nerve, causing inflammation and pain
- You have an overactive immune system that is struggling to maintain healthy immune responses, therefore resulting in higher than normal inflammation levels
- You are holding a lot of tension in your muscles that are putting pressure on the sciatic nerve
- Your posture lately has changed and your lower back is feeling the pinch
- The extra weight on the uterus while pregnant is pressing on the sciatic nerve
Some other contributing factors to consider:
- You may be able to reduce your inflammation by correcting nutritional deficiencies
- You might be experiencing symptoms of a leaky gut, which worsens inflammation in the body
- Prevent the damaging effects of anti-inflammatory drugs by using gut repair and probiotics
- If you are healing too slowly, reassess your diet and supplement routine
- Physical assessment – reflex tests performed by a doctor help diagnose sciatica
- Medical imaging – an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan may be required for further investigation
- Omega-3 index (blood spot) test – helps to identify an essential fatty acid deficiency which is associated with increased systemic inflammation
- Vitamin D (blood) test – a vitamin D deficiency can also contribute to immune dysfunction and increased inflammation
- Pharmaceutical drugs – NSAIDs, corticosteroids and/or are epidural spinal injections can be prescribed by doctors to manage sciatic pain
- Nutritional – using clinical strength magnesium, turmeric, fish oil, gut repair, probiotic, and/or connective tissue helps promote optimal healing processes
- Manual bodywork – remedial massage, osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy, and acupuncture has also been shown to be effective in treating sciatica
- Mind/body techniques – meditation, yoga, and tai chi helps reduce stress and manage pain
- Gut repair – correcting microbiome imbalance, repairing a leaky gut, and eliminating reactive foods helps prevent any additional immune/inflammation response
- Diet – eat an anti-inflammatory diet and avoid refined foods, alcohol, caffeine, saturated fats, and additives
- Exercise – sciatic pain may be alleviated by using controlled low impact movements to strengthen and stretch the lower back, abdominal, gluteal and pelvic floor muscles
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