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Sciatica can strike anyone

What do football manager Thierry Henry, actress and singer Olivia Newton-John and Jean-Claude Juncker, the former President of the European Commission, all have in common? Not much on the face of it, but the fact is that all three have, at one time or other, been battling sciatica.

The former Arsenal striker went from strength to strength following a bout in 2006. Grease star Newton-John was forced to cancel several concerts two years ago while the painful condition was blamed – amidst much speculation – for the 64-year-old Juncker’s stumbles during a recent Nato summit.

What is sciatica?

The older generation will be more familiar with it as Lumbago, but Sciatica (as it’s now called) is an unpleasant and disruptive condition that can potentially afflict anyone – of all ages and levels of fitness!  It’s often confused with other types of back pain and occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or injured. This nerve is the largest and longest in the human body. It runs all the way from the lumbar region in the lower back, through the buttocks and down both legs to the feet. Symptoms can make themselves felt anywhere along the nerve, from the lower back, through the genital region and all the way to the feet.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Stabbing, burning or shooting pains along the sciatic nerve in the:
    • lower back, hip and/or buttock(s)
    • backs of the thighs and down the legs
    • feet and/or toes
    • genital area
  • Burning or tingling (pins and needles) in the legs and/or feet
  • Numbness and weakness in affected areas
  • All of the above made worse by prolonged sitting, standing or walking, heavy lifting and any activity with an impact on the spine (eg running)

Causes of sciatica

The vast majority of sciatica cases are caused by:

A herniated or protruding disc: Positioned between the vertebrae (bones in the spinal column) discs act as shock absorbers or cushions with the lower spinal discs taking on most of the upper body weight. Over time their hard, fibrous outer structure may develop tiny tears, usually as a result of overload or poor posture. This allows their jelly-like inner core to herniate or protrude, irritating the sciatic nerve. and often referred to as a ‘trapped nerve’.

Poor posture: Sitting incorrectly with more weight on one hip than the other can irritate or compress the sciatic nerve.

Degenerative Spinal Arthritis. Osteoarthritis in the spine can damage the cartilage (connective tissue) on the joints and discs in the neck and lower back, producing spurs of bone that press against the sciatic nerve.

Impingement of the sciatic nerve along its course:  the sciatic nerve can be affected by the pelvic joints (sacroiliac joints) or if the nerve passes through the Piriformis muscle (deep in the buttock region), where tightening of the muscle can give sciatic-type symptoms. 

Treating sciatica with Robin Kiashek

The condition may improve on its own after four to six weeks, although this largely depends on the patient’s age, medical history, lifestyle and, importantly, whether he or she heeds my advice! Try not to let it interfere with your daily activities. You can help yourself in battling sciatica via:

  • Avoiding prolonged sitting
  • Keeping moving but only if this doesn’t cause you pain
  • Using cold hydrotherapy (sitting in a cool bath or gentle swimming) to relieve pain on the lower spine
  • Avoiding high impact activities
  • Not sleeping on your front and either putting a pillow under your knees if sleeping on your back, or putting a pillow between your knees if side-lying

Does sciatica go away on its own?

If your symptoms show no sign of improving after a few days, please make an appointment at one of the Robin Kiashek Clinics. I will take a full case history and perform a clinical examination to determine the exact cause of your pain. We will then agree on a treatment plan which may also include advice on exercise, posture, pain management and how to prevent any future attacks.

To get in touch please call 020 8815 0979 or click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

sciatica_diagram [Converted]

Sciatica (or in layman’s terminology lumbago) is a common nerve pain, which is a symptom of an underlying condition that affects the back, hips and legs. It is characterised by a pain accompanied sometimes by pins & needles and/or numbness and/or weakness in the legs. Sometimes the pain affects both legs, and though it most commonly runs down the back of the legs, it can manifest at the front or side too. The cause of the symptoms is irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.

What is the sciatic nerve?

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body, beginning at lower spinal region, running through the buttocks and extends right down the length of the leg to the feet. The symptoms (pain/pins & needles/numbness/weakness) can be felt either locally in the lower back or anywhere along the course of the sciatic nerve (as far as the feet). Other areas, including the genital region, can also be affected.

How do you get sciatica?

In most cases sciatica is caused by an irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, commonly a bulging disc in the lower (Lumbar) spine. Discs are very special shock-absorbing, cushioning tissue structures, which sit between the vertebrae (the bones that make up the spinal column). Structurally, discs can the thought of as having an inner soft core (nucleous pulposus) surrounded by tough circular outer fibres (nucleous fibrosus), the outer fibres holding in place the softer inner core. Typically, over a period of time, the outer surrounding fibres develop micro tears due to, for example, poor posture or overloading over a long period of time (see the June blog article ‘The Dripping Tap Syndrome’). Bearing in mind the lower spinal discs absorb most of the upper body weight, these micro fissures in the outer fibres begin to allow the inner soft core to bulge outwards through the tougher outer fibres, resulting in a ‘disc bulge’, which in turn can begin to impinge on the surrounding tissues, including the sciatic nerve (this scenario is commonly eroneously called a ‘trapped nerve’).

How is sciatica treated?

sciaticaHere at the Robin Kiashek Clinics we promote prevention, and have plenty of advice on keeping your spine healthy and pain-free (see our recent article ’10 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Spine’). However, if you are either experiencing symptoms, no matter how mild, or would like an assessment, an initial consultation should be considered. Robin will take a full case history followed by a clinical examination, which will provide you with a ‘working diagnosis’ of your situation.

You will get a care plan for your treatment, which may include a couple of follow up appointments, and you will get plenty of guidance on understanding pain, and will be given a strategy to move your recovery forward, including advice on exercise.

For more information on sciatica or to book an appointment with Robin, please call 020 8815 0979.