Sciatic Leg Pain

By avn
9:30 am Posted June 10, 2016
In Sciatica

Sciatic leg pain or sciatica is shooting pain caused due to irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve due to which one experiences pain, numbness, and tingling that starts at the buttocks region and radiates down to the legs all the way to the foot and toes. Sciatic leg pain is not a diagnosis but a symptom of an underlying problem.


Symptoms of sciatic leg pain:

  • Pain that worsens on sitting.
  • Leg pain with numbness, tingling, or burning sensation.
  • Difficulty in standing up and walking due to sharp pain.
  • Pain radiating down either of the legs to the foot and toes.
  • Weakness or numbness when moving the leg, foot, and/or toes.
  • Constant pain on only one side of the buttock and/or leg.
  • Shooting pain in one leg resulting in difficulty with standing and walking.

Causes of sciatic leg pain:

  • Lumbar herniated disc: The vertebrae have discs in between them that act as shock absorbers and maintain spine flexibility. When the gel-like material leaks out through the outer layer, it causes irritation of the nerve root. The most common symptom is sciatica.
  • Osteoarthritis: Due to normal wear and tear, the discs tend to degenerate, but the degeneration can cause nerve root irritation causing sciatic leg pain. Also one can develop bone spurs, which are body’s way of strengthening the degenerated spine. These bone spurs also can irritate the nerves leading to sciatic leg pain.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal causes irritation of the sciatic nerve resulting in pain traveling to the legs.
  • Piriformis syndrome: Tightening of the piriformis muscle can result in irritation of the sciatic nerve leading to sciatic leg pain.
  • Spondylolisthesis: A small stress fracture or weakness could result in slipping forward of a vertebra and this could result in pinched nerve leading to sciatic leg pain type pain.
  • Trauma: An injury could result in fracture of the spine or tear of a muscle or damage to the nerves.
  • Pregnancy: Numerous changes occur during pregnancy that includes weight gain, hormonal changes, etc. This could lead to sciatic leg pain.
  • Tumor of the spine: A spinal tumor can press the sciatic nerve causing sciatic leg pain, though it is rare.
  • Muscle strain: Straining the muscles can put pressure on the nerve root causing sciatic leg pain.
  • Infection: Although rare, lower back infections can irritate the nerve root leading to sciatic leg pain.

People who are overweight or obese and people who smoke are considered to be at higher risk for developing sciatic leg pain.

Treatment plan:

Like every other back ailment, conservative treatment is most preferred. These include :

  • Heat/ice packs: Heat and ice packs help in effectively alleviating the symptoms of sciatic leg pain. Usually one needs to apply a pack for 20 minutes several times a day. It is advisable to use ice pack for the first 48 hours of onset of pain and then switch to heat packs.
  • Pain medications: There are a lot of over-the-counter pain and prescription medications that are effective in relieving the pain.
  • Epidural: For severe pain, epidural steroid injection is advised to reduce the inflammation.
  • Physical therapy exercises: Strengthening, stretching and conditioning of the muscles help in effectively treating sciatic pain.
  • Alternative and complementary treatments: There are several alternative treatments available that have been proven to be effective in treating sciatic pain. Yoga and Ayurveda are extremely popular in relieving symptoms without any side effects. While Ayurvedic massages and oil application are sufficient in the milder cases, massages like Podikkizhi (Herbal powder massage), Ilakkaizhi (Herbal leaves massage), kativasthi (Pooling medicated oil in the back), Pizhichil (Pouring medicated oils as a stream), Nhavarakkizhi (Massage with rice boiled in medicated milk) and the Panchakarma therapies with medicated enema like Kashaya Vasthi (enema with medicated decoctions) and Ksheeravasthi (Enema with medicated milk) help even the most severe cases where surgery is recommended. However these are effective only when done under the supervision of a trained Ayurveda professional.


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