The symptoms of sciatica are the result of the irritation suffered by the sciatic nerve due to trauma , disease or fracture. They affect men more often than women, especially after overexertion or high physical impact tasks.
They can occur in different degrees of intensity depending on the underlying cause. Although some cases are mild and sporadic , others are chronic and prolonged, being a reason for disability and sick leave.
It is very important to learn to recognize this condition, as it can cause complications when treatment is not provided. Therefore, we want to explain in detail how it manifests itself and when it is necessary to visit the doctor.
What is sciatica?
The term “sciatica” refers to the pain that extends along the sciatic nerve , which runs from the lower part of the back, down the leg, to the outer edge of the foot. It originates when the nerve is compressed or inflamed, almost always on only one side of the body.
It is not a disease as such, but it does appear due to disorders such as disc herniation, bone spurs and stenosis of the vertebral canal. In addition, certain cases are also due to fractures, injuries and tumors such as pancreas or chondrosarcoma.
Although the symptoms of sciatica can be severe, most cases are controlled with rest and non-surgical treatments. Only severe cases, such as those that produce significant weakness in the leg, may require surgery.
Symptoms of sciatica
One of the most distinctive symptoms of sciatica is a pain in the lower back that radiates to the gluteus and the back of the leg. This pain can manifest itself in multiple ways and can be felt anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve.
It often affects only one side of the body and may be accompanied by alterations in the sensitivity of the skin. While in some cases it is mild and prolonged, others occur suddenly, with an intensity so strong that it prevents normal movements in the patient.
Similarly, the pain may increase when coughing, sneezing or sitting for a long time. However, it usually decreases when walking or staying at rest. Other symptoms of sciatica include:
- Tingling sensation or numbness of the joint.
- Pain in the toes.
- Muscle weakness and decreased muscle reflexes.
- Limitation of movement of the hip and knee.
- Pain that makes it difficult to stand up.
- Inability to stand on tiptoe.
Complications of sciatica
In general, the symptoms of sciatica diminish with therapies and stop being an obstacle to lead a normal life. In fact, many cases improve in a matter of days with rest, without needing to receive a treatment.
But in small cases, this condition can cause a permanent injury to the nerve , which leads to other complications. It is essential to request the timely intervention of a doctor in case of presenting more serious signs such as:
- Loss of sensation of the affected leg.
- Muscular weakness.
- Impaired bowel or bladder function.
- Pain on both sides of the body (bilateral sciatica).
When to consult the doctor?
If mild sciatica symptoms do not usually require medical attention. However, if they last for several days, or become more severe, then a professional evaluation is necessary to determine its cause and the pertinent treatment.
The doctor may suspect the problem with a physical examination that includes some specific movements of the patient. In addition, you can additionally suggest radiographs or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check disc hernias or bone spurs. The consultation is recommended in case of:
- Sudden and intense pains, to the point that movement is limited.
- Injuries or violent traumas, for example, due to a traffic accident.
- Signs of urinary or fecal incontinence.
- Redness and noticeable swelling in the lower back or affected region.
Treatment of sciatica symptoms
Since sciatica can appear due to other diseases, its treatment may vary depending on the diagnosis. Many cases do not need pharmacological or surgical measures because the pain disappears on its own after resting. To relieve pain and reduce inflammation, measures such as:
- Apply hot or cold packs to the area of pain.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
- Reduce the practice of physical activity in the first days.
- Do strengthening exercises after two or three weeks.
In conclusion, although sciatica can be mild and intermittent, one should not ignore its symptoms. When they become recurrent they are a clear signal of other diseases that compromise the nerve.
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