Author: Shaunna Preston
How common is sciatica?
The term ‘sciatica’ is often used to refer to any lower back pain that reaches (radiates) to the legs or hips. Some reports estimate that as many as 90% of people experience some kind of pain in this region at least once during their lifetimes. (Yikes!)
Of course, certain things may make you more likely to fall victim to sciatica pain, including:
- working at a job that requires you to sit or stand for long periods,
- being overweight
However, you may be surprised to learn that while pain that follows this pathway is considered the hallmark sign of sciatica, not all lower back and hip pain is created equal.
How is sciatica pain different from ‘normal’ lower back pain?
“True sciatica” affects about 40% of the population. While ‘typical’ lower back pain or hip pain can sometimes be caused by an overworked or ‘pulled’ muscle, sciatica pain is actually a kind of nerve pain.
The Sciatic Nerves
The two largest nerve bundles in your body are called the sciatic nerves.
They’re about as thick as your pinky and run all the way from your lower lumbar spine to your big toe! When even just one of your thousands of sciatic nerve fibers becomes pinched or compressed, the resulting symptoms can be a major pain the rear- literally!
Signs you need sciatica pain relief:
Other symptoms besides an aching buttocks and hip may include:
- Dull soreness
- Stabbing pain
- ‘Electric shock’-like pain
These symptoms can appear anywhere along the sciatic nerve pathway, and range in severity from a minor annoyance to difficulty walking and standing that leaves you begging for sciatica pain relief! They may appear on one or both sides, and can sometimes be difficult to treat.
Treatment for Sciatica Pain Relief
Treatment for sciatica pain relief can be as simple as rest and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (like Tylenol or Motrin) or as complex as spinal surgery. Gentle, low-impact exercise (like walking, yoga, and spinning) are also reported to be helpful. For some people, though, sciatica pain relief can be difficult to obtain.
This is because sciatic nerve pain itself is not actually a medical ‘condition’. Rather, it’s usually a symptom of (caused by) a larger injury or preexisting medical condition, such as a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, or piriformis syndrome. While pain medications are sometimes necessary for short-term sciatica pain relief, long-term relief from sciatica pain can’t be achieved if the underlying cause is unknown or left untreated.
When should you see a doctor for sciatica?
Minor or mild sciatica pain sometimes goes away on its own, but if self-care measures for sciatica pain relief don’t make a dent in your pain, your symptoms last longer than one week, or your pain seems to be getting worse over time, it’s time to call a professional.
You should immediately seek treatment for sciatic nerve pain if:
- You cannot control your bladder or bowels
- The pain is sudden, severe, and combined with numbness or weakness in your leg
- The pain follows a traumatic or violent injury, like a car wreck.
Just can’t find relief? Consider Joining a Clinical Trial!
Injury care research is currently recruiting participants for a study on sciatica pain relief! You can learn more about our clinic, the benefits of participating in clinical research, and the process of becoming a clinical trial participant here: https://injurycareresearch.com/for-participants/