Sciatica refers to symptoms of pain that are caused by irritation or compression of one or both sciatic nerves exiting the lower spine. The sciatic nerves are comprised of two long pathway of nerves (one on each side of the body) branching off to reach from the spine to the feet. Radiculopathy (the appropriate medical term for sciatica) simply means the spinal disc has expanded and is irritating the nerve root (radicular nerve) connecting to the sciatic nerve.
While the most common cause for sciatica is a herniated disc from some type of injury, there are other causes which must be considered for proper diagnosis and treatment. For instance, osteoarthritis may cause irregular projections of bone that put pressure on the sciatic nerve space, or a sprained ligament may be causing swelling in the lower back. Rare sciatica causes include Paget’s disease, spinal stenosis, a blood clot, or diabetic neuropathy. Other possible reasons the sciatic nerve may become compressed include:
- A herniated or slipped disc in the lumbar or sacral spine
- Strain, inflammation, and swelling of the piriformis muscle (piriformis syndrome)
- Poor posture
- Short leg syndrome
- Wearing high heels
- Overcompensating for other injuries in the knee (ACL injury), lower leg (shin splints), ankle (sprain) or hip (bursitis)
- Damage to the vertebrae in the lumbar or sacral spine
- Disc degeneration in the lumbar or sacral spine
- Tumor in the spine
- A sharp blow or injury to the lower back or buttock area causing injury to the pelvis
- Autoimmune disorders
As you can see from the variety of possible sciatica causes, it’s important to know the origin so that proper treatment can be initiated. Generally, sciatica can be resolved by identifying and treating the underlying cause. An MRI, CT scan, or nerve function test may be necessary in order to determine the specific cause of your sciatica.
Sciatica Home Treatments
Compression of the sciatic nerve can occur in various locations and the exact cause and location is not always known. Treating the symptoms can be helpful to manage the pain but treating the source of the compression will result in faster sciatica relief. We recommend that you see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and to determine the cause of the compression on the sciatic nerve.
If the compression is caused by swelling, you can reduce your pain by applying a Freezie Wrap® when the pain first occurs, to alleviate the swelling that is causing the compression on the nerve. Once the initial pain is reduced, treat the soft tissue inflammation with cold compression therapy for fast relief of sciatica pain.