When the pain goes beyond the lower back and reaches the lower limbs, we talk about irradiated lumbar pain. If the pain extends from the lower back to the heel or foot, descending through the posterior or lateral thigh, we call it lumbosciatica (or simply sciatica). Its presence suggests a lesion of the nerve roots that leave the lumbar spine and carry the sensitivity or orders to contract the muscles to the lower limbs through the sciatic nerve. If the pain does not go beyond the knee region, you should not talk about sciatica and its cause is not usually the injury of the nerve roots.
What is the sciatic nerve?
The sciatic nerve has its origin in the spinal cord and goes down through the hips and buttocks until it branches off the legs. This nerve controls the muscles in the back of the knee and is responsible for the sensitivity of some parts of the thigh, the lower leg region and the sole of the foot. When it suffers damage or is pressed, pain and alterations in muscle functions and the sensitivity of these areas occur. The main causes that can damage the sciatic nerve are:
-The existence of a herniated disc.
-A fracture or other lesion of the pelvis.
-Cancer (bone metastases in the area).
-What is known as peripheral syndrome, which is an injury that compromises the muscle of this name, which is located in the buttocks.
In some cases, sciatica does not need any treatment and eventually disappears over time. In other cases, pharmacological therapy or even physiotherapy is necessary. However, the pressure on the sciatic nerve has always its origin from another condition. The specialist will look for the origin of the discomforts to be able to treat them correctly, especially in case of needing physical therapy.
The most common treatment is based on anti-inflammatories and analgesics, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. In case the pain is very acute and persistent, other drugs can be administered to alleviate the symptoms through injections.
In addition to pharmacological treatment, it is necessary to follow a series of recommendations that have to do with self-care.
Some things you can do to relieve pain
1-First of all, take some rest, which should not last more than 2 days.
2-After this time, it is essential to begin to get up and to perform a smooth and progressive physical activity as you are noticing less pain.
3-In these phases, the application of local heat several times a day is useful.
4-Massage after the heat (especially if you notice that there is a contraction in the muscles) is highly effective.
5-Take analgesics, such as paracetamol or metamizole, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
In chronic low back pain, there are no big differences in the medications we administer. In patients who also have an anxiety or depression component, our doctors can add some medication to help relieve it. The regular practice of rehabilitation exercises and sports such as swimming are of great help for this ailment.
At the London Spine Unit, we have some of the best specialists to diagnose and treat your sciatica. Book an appointment to get a checkup.