It can start as a throbbing pain in your lower back. Next one of your buttocks chimes in. If the pain continues to travel along the nerve pathway, the back of your thigh and calf become involved. Some individuals have experienced pain all the way down to their foot. The Sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It begins in the lower back then branches off on both sides to each buttock and travels the length of your legs down to your feet.
Causes of Sciatic Pain
Problems with a disk in the lower spine are usually the root cause of sciatic pain. The vertebrae in your spine are cushioned by connective tissue. This tissue is in the form of a flat round disk with a soft center and firm outer ring. Disks can get worn down with use or they can be injured. When a disk becomes herniated, the soft part pushes out from the firmer outer ring. If this happens, the resulting bulge can put pressure on the nerves, including the sciatic nerve.
Two other common causes of pain from pressure on the nerve are bone spurs and spinal stenosis. Bone spurs are smooth protrusions of extra bone that often form on the ends of bones, particularly where two bones meet, like two lower vertebrae. Osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease are the main causes of bone spurs.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the canal through which the spine travels. When this opening gets smaller in the lower back, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain. This most often occurs in people over 50 and is the result of arthritis.
Even though most people experience sciatic pain as a result of a problem with the lower back, that is not always the case. Sciatic pain can also be caused from an injury to the pelvis or the hip. Sometimes pregnant women will experience the pain as well.
Sciatic Pain Treatment
Sciatic pain often resolves on its own after a few days. Over-the-counter pain medications like the anti-inflammatory Ibuprofen may help. Icing the area for 20-minute intervals throughout the day for the first few days can be effective. Sometimes using heat or alternating between heat and ice will provide relief.
When your pain is lasting longer than a few weeks or if you have been injured, you should seek medical care. Anyone experiencing severe pain, especially if it comes on suddenly, should see a doctor right away.
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