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Sciatica --Causes and Treatments
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March 8, 2010, last updated May 6, 2016

By Rory McClenaghan, Contributing Columnist


The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body so it is not
surprising that any interference with it can cause serious
pain and discomfort.

And that's just what sciatica is, a compression or irritation of
the sciatic nerve.  


Estimates for your  risk for developing sciatica vary
depending on the health authority, however, a 1987 study
from the Research Institute for Social Security, Social
Insurance Institution in Finland puts the lifetime risk at 5.3%
for men and 3.7% for women.  Most cases of sciatica occur
after age 30 and before age 50.


Sciatica  is more a set of symptoms than a condition in itself.
The sciatic nerve runs from the pelvis all the way down to
your feet so the pain of sciatica can be widespread. There
are two main forms of sciatica: acute and chronic. Acute
sciatica usually passes within six weeks and can be treated
with standard painkillers but chronic sciatica is longer term
and may require further treatment. First, let us investigate
the causes of sciatica.


What Causes Sciatica?

There are five main causes of sciatica, all of which put
unnatural pressure on the sciatic nerve, and all end in the
same result – pain for the sufferer.


Herniated discs in the spine – the most common cause of
sciatica. When a disc herniates, the material at the center
breaks the outer wall and begins to seep out. This gel-like
substance presses on the nearby roots of the sciatic nerve.

Lumbar spinal stenosis – nerve roots branch off the spinal
cord and travel through canals known as neural foramina to
reach the rest of the body. In lumbar spinal stenosis, these
passageways become narrowed, putting pressure on the
nerves that pass through them. This is often associated with
leg pain.

Spondylolisthesis – when a vertebra slips over another
(often as a result of degenerative disk disease) a nerve can
be caught between the two bones.

Spinal Tumors – this is a less common cause, but whether
benign or malignant, tumors in the spine will press against
the nerve endings, causing sciatica.

Trauma – unnatural pressure on the spine from car accidents
or sporting injuries can damage the nerve directly, or create
broken parts of bone which settle against nerve endings.

Top 5 Sciatica Treatments

Always contact your physician in the first case if you feel you
are suffering from sciatica. He
or she may advise surgery,
but before things get that far there are a number of
treatments and tips which can help:































1.
Keep Moving.  According to a 1996 study from the Finnish
Institute of Occupational Health, the worse thing you can do
is to stop moving completely. Continue to lead a normal life.
Rest is not always the best cure. Researchers found that
sufferers who went about their normal daily routine
recovered quicker than those who rested in bed.

[Update:

Whatever you do, don't sit too long. People who sit for long
periods of time are at especially high risk for sciatica. Those
who sit for more than half their work day suffer two to three
times the rates of sciatics, according to a 2007 study
conducted jointly by the Occupational and Industrial
Orthopaedic Center of New York and New York University
Hospital for Joint Diseases.

Walking and swimming are excellent exercises to prevent
sciatica or to relieve its pain. If you can't swim, even
pretending to swim by lying on the floor will work the same
muscles.]

2.
Lose Weight By Doing  the Right Kind of Exercises.
Exercise in tandem with a physical therapy program can
help. Exercise contributes to weight loss which will always
help back pain.

But the wrong type of exercise just makes sciatica worse.
The best thing to do is to work with a physical therapist to
come up with a series of easy-to-do exercises which will help
keep the spine in a healthy position as you go about your
normal life. Research by the Institute for Work & Health and
the University of Toronto in 2005 found that exercise
therapy decreased pain for people with chronic lower back
pain, like sciatica.

One simple back stretch which helps sciatica is touching your
toes from a standing position. If you can't reach your toes,
do not fret. Simply trying to reach your toes stretches your
lower back. Over a period of a few months, you will
experience greater flexibility in your lower back and, in most
cases, less sciatica pain. (Read more about
how touching
your toes improves your health.)

3.
Epidural Cortisone Injections . These can be very helpful
for short-term pain relief. However, a 1997 study from Laval
University and the University of Montreal found that after
three months the injections had stopped decreasing pain in
sciatica sufferers and were no better than a placebo.

4.
Foods and Vitamins That Help Sciatica. Vitamin B and
Vitamin D greatly relieve sciatica pain.  Maintain a healthy
diet  because, as mentioned, losing weight is always a good
aid to back pain. Eating a balanced diet which is low in fat
and includes plenty of fruit and vegetables is a great first
step. To be more specific, vitamin D is vital to build strong
bones and can help to avoid the bone-related causes of
sciatica.

A study by the Department of Medicine at Riyadh Armed
Forces Hospital in Saudia Arabia in 2003 found that 83% of
back pain sufferers were vitamin B deficient. Fish oils are a
great way to top up your vitamin D levels. Mackerel and
herring are both very oily fish, or you could take a
supplement.

5.
Stretch Before.  If you are not a sciatica sufferer but are
worried you could suffer from back pain in the future, there
are some simple things you can do to lessen your chances of
contracting the condition.

When exercising, make sure to stretch beforehand.  

Investing just 15 minutes in warming up your back and
hamstrings can save you a lot of trouble in the future.  Pay
attention to your posture, avoid slouching, start slowly, and
stretch out before exercising


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