Sciatica: A Real Medical Condition Essay

1657 words - 7 pages

Sciatica is a term given to discomfort in the lower back that moves down the leg through the sciatic nerve, which causes pain, tingling, numbness or weakness on either side of your body. Although sciatica cannot be diagnosed as an actual medical condition, it is said to be a symptom of a previous injury or medical condition. The original cause is usually pressure on the sciatic nerve. The largest single nerve in the body is the sciatic nerve, which is composed of individual nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back at lumbar 3 (Frymoyer 1992). The nerves that stem from each level of the lower spine intertwine to construct the sciatic nerve, which runs from the ...view middle of the document...

The second most common reason for seeing a doctor in the United States is for back pain, which closely follows respiratory infections. It is the third most common reason for surgery.
Symptoms of injury to the sciatic nerve include constant lower back pain on only one side of the buttock or leg. It is very rare to experience pain in both sides of the body. The pain can become worse when sitting. Symptoms originate in the lower back and continue along the sciatic nerve, down the back of the thigh into the lower leg and foot. Additional symptoms can include burning or tingling down the leg, weakness or numbness, difficulty moving the leg or foot, or a sharp pain that makes it difficult to stand up or sit for long periods of time. Discomfort can become more bearable when the person lies down or walks around, increasing blood flow to the area. Although it is unbearable at times, it is very rare that there is permanent nerve damage to the sciatic nerve.
Because sciatica is not a diagnosis but a description of symptoms or result of another diagnosis, pain in parts or all of the sciatic nerve can be caused by anything that puts pressure on one or more of the nerve roots that stem from the lumbar segments. The pressure can be from a herniated disc, a state in where the external area of the vertebral disc is torn, spinal stenosis, the constricting of the spinal column that induces stress on the spinal cord or surrounding nerves, or other abnormalities of the vertebrae. Additional cases that lead to sciatica include when the Piriformis muscle, which is found deep in the buttocks, pinches the sciatic nerve. This condition is likely to happen after an injury occurs. The above conditions are only a slight overview of the many conditions that can have a strong impact on the sciatic nerve.
Prevention of sciatica is not always possible, depending on the case. Exercising regularly is an important aspect for your overall health and focusing on your core muscles located in your abdomen and lower back are crucial to proper alignment and posture. Consulting a doctor or medical physician about specific exercise activities and the proper posture during the exercise is the key to avoid injury. Using proper body mechanics both during exercise and throughout the day will help avoid too much strain. For example, when standing for long periods of time, rest one foot on a stool to alleviate the stress and periodically switch feet. When lifting a heavy object, allow your legs to do most of the work. Lifting the object with your knees is important, even more so is to move straight up and down and never bend your back. Maintaining a stable posture when sitting and standing can significantly reduce lower back pain. A seat with a lot of lower back support, arm rests and swivel base helps to maintain the spine's normal curve.
A medical history evaluation and brief physical examination is necessary for determining if the pain is originating in the sciatic nerve. More tests may...

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