Sciatica is a condition of the back that causes shooting pains throughout a person’s lower back and legs. This happens when the sciatic nerve becomes pressed or irritated by the bones located in the lower area of the spine.
Although this pain is usually felt throughout the leg, it is common for it to go beyond the knee and even into the foot. Besides pain, other effects are weakness of the leg muscles or numbness. Oftentimes this is combined with some form of lower back pain which can occur before or after the condition.
To establish and diagnose sciatica, doctors often look at which kind of category the pain fits into and the condition of the patient. Certain groups of people are advised to seek the attention of a doctor when experiencing back pain. If this back pain comes after a severe injury, you have or have had cancer at some point, you have lost an unusual amount of weight recently, you are taking steroids or you have been feeling generally unwell.
Usually sciatica resolves itself within a few days up to a few weeks and specific treatment is not necessary. Keeping active is helpful, as well as limiting bed rest and remaining in work. Although the natural reaction is to rest in bed, this itself will not treat the problem. Basic pain killers can help to control the pain, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol.
An epidural may be advised in extreme cases. A special liquid is injected into the spine to numb the nerves that are being irritated and causing the pain.
In very rare cases, controlling this pain is not sufficient and surgery may be recommended to stop the disc or bone from pressing on the nerves. This decision is never made lightly due to the extreme risks involved.