What Is Sciatica (Nerve Compression)? Symptoms And Treatment

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Almost every person experiences back and leg pain at some point in their lives. These pains are usually underestimated and usually go away on their own. However, there may be reasons such as herniated disc or sciatica under these back and leg pains. Therefore, a doctor’s check-up is necessary for diagnosis and treatment.

What Is Sciatica (Nerve Compression)?

The sciatic nerve originates from the 4th and 5th nerves at the bottom of the spine, passes through the middle of the hip, and descends to the heel. The sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body, is also one of the most important nerves in the body. Pain can occur in the leg and leg area if this nerve is damaged, stretched, or compressed for any reason. This pain is also known as sciatica. In a shorter definition, the pain that occurs in the sciatic nerve is called sciatica in the vernacular. Sciatica pain can start in the hip and back region and spread to the thigh, back of the leg, and feet. In such cases, conditions such as weakness in the legs, decreased reflexes of the knees and ankles, and increased pain when the leg is lifted may occur.

Sciatica pain usually starts on one side. Pain is mild at the beginning level, but can become severe in later periods. It is more likely to occur in people between the ages of 20 and 50, who work in heavy jobs, and who do not regularly exercise.

What Causes Sciatica (Nerve Compression)?

Although sciatica can occur due to many reasons, the main cause is usually a herniated disc. At the same time, sciatica can also develop as a result of compression in the lumbar region, compression of the sciatic nerve passing through the muscles in the hip region, traumatic injuries to the knee joint or foot.

We can list the common causes of sciatica as follows:

  • Age-related changes can occur in the spinal cord. For example, muscles, bones and periarticular tissues weaken. Herniated discs or bone spurs can also cause sciatica.
  • Excessive body weight and obesity increase the stress on the spine. Therefore, spinal changes occur and this triggers sciatica.
  • Actions such as carrying heavy loads, turning the back, using motor vehicles exposed to vibration for a long time trigger sciatica.
  • Individuals with a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica. For example, driving for a long time while sitting is considered a risk factor for sciatica.
  • Diabetes, or diabetes as it is popularly known, causes damage to the nervous system and this can trigger the occurrence of sciatica.
  • The sciatic nerve can be damaged in traumatic situations such as accidents and injuries.
  • During pregnancy, pressure on the sciatic nerve may occur due to weight gain and enlargement of the uterus. As the abdomen and breasts grow, the centre of gravity of the body changes and pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause pain.

Elimination of these risk factors minimises the risk of sciatica.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sciatica (Nerve Compression)?

Sciatica pain is generally characterised by a pain that starts in the lower back and extends to the foot, and the pain intensifies with movement. At the same time, loss of sensation and strength in the feet or legs may also occur.

In cases where sciatica occurs, it is possible to list the common symptoms as follows:

  • Limitation of the person’s movements,
  • Tingling in the lower leg or foot area,
  • Inability to stand upright and leaning to one side,
  • Sensation of needle pricking in the heel or toes,
  • Problems with foot dragging on the side where the pain is felt,
  • Loss of movement in advanced stages of the disease,
  • Pain that intensifies with movement,
  • Incontinence of urine or gas, lack of bowel control.

In particular, the inability to control the bowels is considered an extremely serious symptom and requires immediate intervention to prevent more serious consequences.

How Is Sciatica (Nerve Pinching) Treated?

The treatment of sciatica varies depending on the patient’s history, the severity of the sciatica pain, and the source of the pain. In cases where the disease is not very advanced, pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory drugs are sufficient. Some patients may need epidural steroid injections. In addition, physical therapy and rehabilitation methods may be used if necessary. If the aforementioned treatment methods are not working and the patient has also lost bowel control or developed weakness in the legs, surgery is required. At this point, lumbar laminectomy can be used to reduce pressure on the nerve, and diskectomy can be used to partially or completely remove the disc.

In cases where sciatica does not progress too much and surgical intervention is not required, the following treatment methods can be used as an alternative:

  • Stretching, regular exercise, yoga and pilates,
  • Hot compress applications,
  • Avoiding heavy lifting, sitting for long periods of time, getting up and moving once in a while and avoiding activities that may cause pain,
  • Acupuncture and massage therapy.

In cases where sciatica symptoms occur, a doctor’s control is absolutely necessary for diagnosis and treatment.

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