Sciatica is a condition caused by the inflammation, compression or pinching of the sciatic nerve, which results in radiating leg pain. Sciatica can be severe and even limit daily activities. The pain is often worsened when one twists, bends, or coughs. It has an annual incidence of 1-5%, and a lifetime incidence of 10-40%. Older age (45-65 years), strenuous physical activity or certain occupations where workers are required to drive, operate machines, or be in physically awkward positions for prolonged periods can increase the risk of sciatica.
Sciatica is mainly diagnosed based on the history of symptoms and findings upon physical examination. Some indicators for sciatica include:
A straight-leg raise test is a physical examination that is performed by raising the leg and keeping it straight while laying down. The accompanying leg pain suggests that the disc in the lower back is herniated (bulging), which pinches or irritates the nearby sciatic nerve. Besides physical examination, diagnostic imaging may be used in patients with red flags such as severe or worsening symptoms, suspicion of underlying diseases (infections or cancer), or persistent pain despite conservative care.
Sciatica treatment and management focuses on controlling pain and managing function by staying as active as possible and avoiding prolonged bed rest. Some ways to manage and relieve the pain include:
Surgery should only be considered when the pain persists for more than 12 weeks and does not respond to treatment. If the pain continues to worsen and interferes with your work and daily life, please consult a medical professional for an in-depth checkup.
In this modern day and age, many of our jobs involve spending long hours of the day sitting at the desk or sitting in cars. This sedentary lifestyle puts many people at risk of sciatica, and some may already be struggling with it. As such, making appropriate lifestyle changes is important to help prevent sciatica from occurring and recurring. Let's get moving!
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