Majority of the people, specifically the adult age group, is prone to body aches, fatigue, and everyday pains due to stressful lifestyles, lack of nutrients in the diet, and not getting the rest that is required by the body to heal itself.
While this is an irritating inconvenience itself that can distract any person from engaging in work or even relaxation activities, it can also be confused with signs and symptoms of other health conditions the person might have.
In a similar way, sciatic nerve pain can also be taken as pain caused by not getting enough rest. In accordance with the statistics, a larger number of young adults today wake up daily to experiencing sciatic nerve pain.
How does one know that they have sciatic nerve pain? If you have ever woken up to nagging pain from upper thighs or in the lower back that tends to spread downwards and does not go away no matter what you try, there is a big possibility you have sciatic nerve pain.
The good news is that typically the pain is temporary and has minor causes. It can go away randomly just as it came. However, given that sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in the body, the pain can make you deal with extreme discomfort as well as inability to work.
What Is Sciatic Nerve Pain?
While most of the people are still able to work and manage other stuff in life with a headache, sciatic nerve pain can ruin a person’s whole day. Depending on the intensity of pain, it can even make sitting on an office chair difficult.
The problem in sciatic nerve pain, also commonly known as sciatica begins in the lower back where the sciatic nerve is located and the nerves surrounding it.
When the nerves running along the largest single nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve, get pinched, extreme pain develops which spreads all the way down in the calves of the legs or sometimes even the feet.
To make the matters worse, sciatic nerve pain is often repetitive. Most of the people who develop sciatica have periods of the pain that come and go many times a week or even many times in a single day.
Pain in sciatic pinching has been described as almost intolerable and likely to make a person take a day off from school or office. It primarily affects one leg but can also cause pain in both of the legs at the same time.
Another thing which makes sciatic nerve pain more complex is that majority of the people who experience it are not aware of how it developed in the first place. Many times, its diagnosis is hard because it gets mixed up with arthritis pain.
How Is Sciatica Treated?
In accordance with studies on treatments of sciatica, many people turn towards painkilling medication or even surgery when the former is proven ineffective as well as for a comparatively faster solution to the unbearable pain.
However, researchers have shown that less invasive alternatives are just as effective when it comes to treating sciatic nerve pain. For example, chiropractic spinal adjustment is a method that is becoming popular in relieving sciatica.
A study published in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapies in 2010 found that around 60% of the people who have sciatic nerve pain who were not able to get rid of their pain by medication found relief in spinal manipulation.
Consequently, many of the medical practitioners have now started suggesting alternative therapies for sciatic nerve pain due to their effectiveness and the fact they come with no side effects, do not harm the nerve anatomy and can help reduce stress levels.
Massage, acupuncture, and yoga are some methods other than spinal manipulation that has shown to work as they work like natural muscle and nerve relaxers.
The plus point to them is they can help in a better range of motion, better immunity, and even increased protection from injuries.
What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Many people including young adults and even children are now experiencing sciatic nerve pain every other day without even knowing what is causing the pain. According to the researchers, the main reasons behind the pain are inflammation and herniated spinal discs.
For a majority of the adults, the development of sciatic nerve pain is due to herniated spinal discs. This means the disc that is present in the spine has a slight tear or crack in it which stick out into the spinal canal.
A herniated disc that disturbs the spinal canal is also responsible for affecting the chemical messages that are sent to the limbs through the nerves.
If the herniated spinal disc sticks out in a particular area, it ends up pinching the sciatic nerve – the main passageway of communication between the legs and the spine that also connects smaller branches of nerves from the spinal canal to pelvis, legs, feet, and the ankles.
Not everyone who has a crack in their spinal discs develops sciatic nerve pain. People with sciatic nerve pain due to extreme pressure on the spine are also likely to have several other spinal issues specifically the lumbar spinal problems.
In people who belong to the older age groups, sciatic nerve pain occurs due to years of aging, poor posture, too much exercise or lack of exercise, high-stress levels, and even injuries on the back.
Aging results in the decrease of spinal fluid and elasticity of the spinal discs making them more prone to cracks.
On the other hand, sciatica was known to occur only due to cracks in the spinal discs until recently when the effects of inflammation on the lumbar spine and spinal discs were studied.
The conclusion that was reached was that sciatica can happen due to lack of nerve root compression due to inflammation.
This causes similar problems and pain as experienced in sciatic nerve pain due to cracks in the spinal discs as it triggers chronic returning episodes of the nerve root which is inflamed.
People who tend to have poor health generally due to unhealthy habits like diets lacking in nutrition, bad postures, disturbed sleep cycles, and high levels of stress can have faster aging of the discs. In case of herniated discs, inflammation can make the matter worse.
Symptoms of Sciatic Nerve Pain
Statistically, around 1 to 2 percent of the adults experience sciatic nerve pain due to herniated discs at least once in their lives. The condition is much more common than men than in women and usually affects people over the age of 30.
Sciatic nerve pain can occur in anyone from people with an active lifestyle to people with sedentary lifestyles. The symptoms and signs of sciatic nerve pain to watch are:
- Trouble exercising or moving
- Pain while sleeping
- Strong and shooting pain the limbs and lower back that travels downwards
- Inflammation and throbbing in the lower back or the thighs when standing or sitting for a long time
- Tingling and numbness in the limbs
- Inability to flex feet
- Feeling stiff
Sciatic nerve pain can last for different periods of time depending on the person. Normally, it lasts for six weeks and can turn into chronic pain which is unbearable or requires surgery. While it goes away in between the time period, it usually returns stronger.
Sometimes, nerves can be pinched without any pain at all which leaves people not being aware of having some problem with their sciatic nerve. Since normal sciatic pain is extreme, many see a doctor right away but in cases where there is no pain, the pinched nerves can reach a dangerous stage.
The pain in sciatica can also last for a very long time with ongoing problems for a year or two even with proper treatment.
In some cases, ongoing pain in the thighs or lower back can be a symptom of a something even more serious like nerve damage or even some disease such as spinal stenosis or piriformis syndrome. Hence, it is better to see a doctor right away if you have continuous pain.