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Living with Sciatica

03 January 2024

Millions of people around the world suffer from sciatica, a condition that can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the lower body. While there is no one-size-fits-all cure for the condition, there are many things you can do to manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.



Sciatica At a Glance

Sciatica is a medical condition with symptoms of leg pain, tingling, and numbness that originate in the lower back and travel down through the buttocks and legs. The condition is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body.

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of sciatica can vary from mild to severe. They may include:

1. Pain in the lower back, buttocks, or legs: The pain associated with sciatica can range from mild to crippling. It may be a sharp or a dull, throbbing pain. The pain may worsen when you sit, stand or walk. Some people find that lying down or bending forward relieves the pain.

2. Numbness or tingling in the lower body: You may experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs, feet, or toes. This is caused by compression of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve.

3. Weakness in the legs: Sciatica can cause weakness or loss of sensation in the legs. This may make it difficult to stand up or walk.

4. Difficulty moving or controlling the legs: The weakness and numbness caused by sciatica can make it difficult to move your legs. You may have trouble standing up or walking.

5. A feeling of pins and needles in the legs: This is caused by irritation of the nerve roots. Sometimes, the sensation can be similar to pins and needles, prickling or burning.

6. The severity of symptoms depends on the amount of compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. In some cases, the pain is mild and goes away on its own. In other cases, the pain is so severe that it interferes with daily activities.



Causes of Sciatica

Several conditions can cause sciatica. These include, but are not limited to:

Herniated Discs

A herniated disc is a serious condition that can cause immense pain, weakness, and numbness. It occurs when a disc's inner, gel-like substance ruptures through its outer layer and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can happen due to many reasons, such as injury, repetitive motion, poor posture, degeneration (with age), or obesity.

A herniated disc can be diagnosed through a physical examination and imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan. The doctor will look for signs of nerve compression and nerve damage, and the imaging tests will help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and restore function. Treatment options include:

1. Rest: This is important to allow the inflammation to go down. Avoid activities that make the pain worse.

2. Ice: Apply ice to the affected area for 20 minutes several times a day.

3. Heat: Apply heat to the affected area for 20 minutes several times a day.

4. Exercise: Gentle exercises stretching, and strengthening muscles can help relieve pain and improve function. Be sure to start slowly and increase the intensity gradually.

5. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help relieve pain and improve function.

6. Massage: Massage can help relax the muscles and relieve pain.

7. Chiropractic care: A chiropractor can use manipulative techniques to realign the spine and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.

8. Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine technique involves inserting needles into the skin to relieve pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a condition that causes the discs in the spine to break down. This can happen due to several reasons, such as injury, repetitive motion, poor posture, or degeneration (with age).

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition that can cause sciatica. It occurs when the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. This can happen for several reasons, the most common of which is arthritis.

As we age, our bones can start to wear down, and this can cause the spine to narrow. Other conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include:

1. Spondylolisthesis: This condition where one vertebra slips forward on top of another.

2. Spinal tumors: Tumors can grow anywhere in the body; if they form near the spine, they can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

-Infections: Infections like meningitis can cause inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord and nerves.



Treating Sciatica

There are many different treatment options available for sciatica, and the best course of action will often depend on the condition's underlying cause. In some cases, simple home remedies such as ice or heat therapy may be all that is needed to provide relief. For more severe cases, however, more aggressive treatment may be necessary.

Common treatments for sciatica include:

1. Pain medication: Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve the pain associated with sciatica. Prescription medications may also be necessary for more severe cases.

2. Muscle relaxants: These medications can help to relieve muscle spasms and pain.

3. Antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline are effective in treating sciatica pain.

4. Steroid injections: Injections of corticosteroids into the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and pain.

5. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles in your back and legs, which can help to relieve pain.



Tips on Living with Sciatica

You can do many things to manage the symptoms of sciatica and improve your quality of life. The first step is to see a doctor get an accurate diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan. Once you have started treatment, there are also a few things you can do at home to help relieve pain and improve your symptoms.

Here are a few tips for living with sciatica:

1. Stay active: While it is important to rest when the pain is severe, too much rest can worsen the pain. Instead, stay as active as possible and engage in low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or gentle stretching.

2. Maintain good posture: Poor posture can strain the back unnecessarily and aggravate pain. Practice good posture by keeping your shoulders back and your head up. Try to avoid slouching and keep your knees and hips at 90-degree angles when sitting.

3. Use hot and cold therapy: Applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and pain. After a few days, you can try using heat instead, such as a heating pad or warm bath.

4. Stretch and strengthen: Stretching exercises can help to improve flexibility and relieve pain. Strengthening exercises such as crunches and squats can also help to support the back and reduce the risk of further injury.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can strain the back and worsen the pain. Losing even a few pounds can help to reduce pain and improve symptoms.

6. Quit smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of spinal problems and worsen the pain. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health.

7. Wear comfortable and soft shoes: Wearing shoes with high heels or stiff soles can put unnecessary strain on the back. Instead, opt for comfortable shoes with soft, supportive soles.

8. Sleep on a firm mattress: A soft mattress can worsen pain by putting strain on the back. Instead, sleep on a firm mattress to support the spine.

9. Avoid prolonged sitting or standing: Prolonged sitting or standing can worsen the pain. If you must sit or stand for long periods, take breaks often to move around and stretch.



FlexiSpot E7 Plus

If you suffer from sciatica, you will constantly need to change your position while working from a desk. In normal cases, you will need to take breaks from work and move around a bit. However, there are times when you cannot leave your desk, such as during an important conference call or when you are dealing with a pressing deadline.

In these cases, it is best to have a desk that can be used while sitting or standing. The E7 Plus is the perfect solution for people who want to alternate between sitting and standing positions frequently.

The desk is powered by a dual motor and can be adjusted to any height between 26 to 51.6 inches at the touch of a button. You can store multiple positions to attain them at the touch of a single button.

The lifting system and improved structure allow you to load up to 540 pounds onto the desktop, and it stays steady even when fully extended. You'll never have a wobble or problem with this desk!

Final Thoughts

Sciatica is a common condition that causes pain in the lower back and legs. The pain is usually caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the legs.

The condition can be a pain to live with, but there are many things you can do to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Stay active, practice good posture, and try different home remedies to help relieve pain. If you are overweight, lose weight to take pressure off the spine. And finally, get a desk that can adjust to sitting and standing positions!