Link to article – https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/927793/Back-pain-cure-sciatica
ALMOST half of us are affected by sciatica at some point. Osteopath Oliver Eaton reveals what you can do about it.
The pain radiates down the back of your leg, with a numbness or tingling that extends down to your toes.
It is accompanied by a quick jolt of pain each time you cough or sneeze, that can be sharp enough to bring tears to your eyes.
The culprit is sciatica, which occurs when the sciatic nerve, the largest one in the body – running from your hips to your feet – becomes irritated.
It is estimated that almost half of us (43 per cent) will be affected by the condition at some point.
Model Kelly Brook and former Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding have both suffered from the condition.
The pain is caused by the pinching of the sciatic nerve along its pathways.
Sciatic pain can be constant or develop when moving and includes numbness, tingling, burning or weakness and sharp shooting pains that travel down the leg in a line often into the foot.
Or the discomfort can become worse when sitting down.
According to research, if you are overweight or smoke then you are at more risk.
Sciatica usually gets better after four to six weeks, although it can take many months.
It is important to identify the cause early, as limping to avoid the pain can often trigger a separate set of symptoms.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CAUSES?
LUMBAR HERNIATED DISC
Herniated discs (also known as slipped discs, prolapsed discs, bulging discs or protruding discs) occur when the gel-like substance inside the spinal disc pushes against the outer coating, causing it to bulge outwards.
This bulge can then push against the nerve.
DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE
Discs, alongside cartilage in the body, don’t have a blood supply.
This means a disc’s ability to repair and regenerate isn’t as good as a muscle, for example.
As we age, the volume of fluid in the disc lessens, weakening the structure, leaving it vulnerable to bulging out against a nerve.
This can then cause sciatic-type pain.
This is a condition in which the piriformis muscle, located in the bottom, spasms and causes buttock pain.
The piriformis muscle can also irritate the nearby sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot (similar to sciatic pain).
We are not designed to sit for as long as we do in the 21st century, with the increase in desk jobs.
The good news is that it is one of the easiest forms of sciatica to resolve with alternative treatments.
LUMBAR SPINAL STENOSIS
Spinal stenosis refers to an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that results in pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
It often develops over time as a result of degeneration in the spinal joints as we age and is most common in the over-60s.
The weight of the baby can cause many of the muscles that surround the sciatic nerve to tighten up around it, causing symptoms of sciatica.
Also during the third trimester of pregnancy a hormone called relaxin is released.
This relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis to allow for the baby to travel through easily during labour.
The relaxing of these ligaments can often cause the pelvis to become misaligned which can pinch some of the nerves.
If any of the muscles along the pathway of the sciatic nerve suffer a strain and it isn’t treated properly, then it can cause scar tissue to form over that strain.
This scar tissue can potentially put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE SCIATICA?
Prescription or over-the-counter medications can often reduce the symptoms of sciatica.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help if the sciatica is due to any inflammation pressing against the nerve.
If the pain is due to tension in the muscles tightening around the nerve then muscle relaxants such as diazepam can help.
These aren’t long-term solutions though and won’t address the root cause of your symptoms.
Also long-term use of these types of medication can irritate the stomach lining and cause liver damage.
It is important to stay as active as possible if you have sciatica.
Simple exercises, such as walking and gentle stretching, can help reduce the severity of your symptoms and strengthen the muscles that support your back.
Although lying down may provide some temporary pain relief, prolonged bed rest is usually unnecessary and unhelpful.
HEAT AND ICE
Both heat and ice can help for both acute and chronic cases of sciatica.
If the sciatica is a result of an acute injury, straining a muscle for example, then you can use a procedure called contrast bathing.
This involves placing ice or a cold compress over the area for 10 minutes then placing heat over the area for 10 more straight away, repeating twice an hour if needed.
If the sciatica is as a result of piriformis syndrome then sitting on a hot water bottle for 20 minutes can help.
Top athletes such as Jessica Ennis-Hill and Andy Murray are both fans of ice baths for muscle repair.
If your sciatica is the result of tension in the leg and muscles tightening up around the nerve, then acupuncture can be effective at helping to reduce this by causing the body to produce natural pain-relieving endorphins.
Again if your sciatica is caused by tight muscles around the sciatic nerve, then massage therapy can be an effective way of loosening up those muscles.
This is an alternative treatment which involves manipulating and massaging the skeleton and musculature.
Several orthopaedic tests will be used to find out where the sciatic nerve is being pinched and then a combination of massage, stretching and gentle manipulation is used to take the pressure off the nerve.
Stretches will also be prescribed to help sustain the results and prevent the symptoms returning.
• Oliver Eaton is a qualified and registered osteopath, medical acupuncturist and musculoskeletal injection therapist.
He specialises in treating sciatica, arthritis and headaches/migraines.
For more information call 0800 107 3238 or visit prohealthclinic.co.uk