Sciatica: the pain that hits below the belt
Generally sufferers of sciatica have sedentary jobs or lifestyles, say when they’re sitting at a computer all day or driving a van, but it affects active people too. Just a few months ago the former Coronation Street, Natalie Gumede, was diagnosed with a compressed disc and sciatica after being struck down with pain during rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body and is quite a structure. In fact, at its largest, it’s as thick as your thumb!
It carries nerve fibres from the spinal cord down the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks and all the way down both legs to your feet.
If one of the five major nerves forming the sciatic nerve is affected, you may experience pain anywhere from the buttock to the toes. You may not experience back pain.
If you suddenly start feeling pain in these areas, you may have an irritated sciatic nerve. While it is possible for a herniated disc to lead to sciatica, there are many other causes including bone spurs pressing on the nerve, an injury or degenerative arthritis of the joints of the spine or muscle dysfunction.
For most people, sciatica pain goes away naturally quickly, yet for others it can go on for weeks, months and occasionally years.
Sciatica is a good indicator that all is not well in the lower back and alerts us to the fact that we may have a problem. This means, as well as trying to reduce pain levels, we must also address the underlying root of the problem.
Mild And Short-Lasting Pain
If your pain is mild and lasts only a few days, there are things you can do to help treat sciatica and relieve the pain.
Sciatica can be helped by exercise, specifically those that are specifically for the lateral lower back. You can also loosen up the muscles in this area (which go into spasm) using our Dual Action Roller Massager that applies pressure and gives deep tissue massage where it is needed.
Anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen and Nurofen can help, but can have side effects and interact with other medicines you take, so always read the package insert, speak to your pharmacist or see your GP.
In addition, our Sacroiliac Belt supports and compresses the hip joints to reduce pain in the hips and buttocks. By preventing excessive movement and supporting the pelvis, it helps hips regain their natural movement.
When It's More Serious
If there is weakness in the leg, or if the pain continues for more than two or three days, you should see your doctor or physiotherapist. If you develop pain in both legs and this is associated with weakness in the foot and ankle (a foot-drop) or you have difficulty controlling your bladder, visit your doctor, local NHS walk-in unit or A&E department immediately.
In rare cases, a herniated disc may press on nerves that cause you to lose control of your bladder or bowel and this is referred to as cauda equina syndrome. If this happens, you may also have numbness or tingling in your groin or genital area. This is an emergency situation that requires surgery so seek urgent medical attention.