Setting the Record Straight on Sciatica
- Posted on: Aug 20 2013
If you suffer from sciatica—nerve-related pain that occurs as a result of a back problem—you know how debilitating it can be. The discomfort, which might feel like a leg cramp or a shooting or tingling sensation, often worsens when you sit, sneeze or cough. Fortunately, there are ways to get beyond the pain.
Here are some of the most common myths about sciatica—and how to get back on your feet fast:
1. Myth: Sciatica only affects sedentary people.
Fact: Sciatica can also strike active people who carry heavy loads or twist their backs.
2. Myth: Everyone with sciatica experiences the same symptoms.
Fact: Symptoms can vary. Pain usually runs down the back of one leg, sometimes into the foot and toes. Some people also experience tingling, burning or prickly sensations. Symptoms depend on the location of the nerve compression. The severity and duration of the pain can vary too. It can last for just a few weeks or for longer.
3. Myth: Sciatica is caused by a herniated disk (when the cartilage that cushions the spine ruptures and presses on a spinal nerve).
Fact: That might be the culprit, but there are other possible causes. You might have spinal stenosis, in which the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on spinal nerves; aging and degenerating disks; or a spinal tumor. Talk to your health-care provider about what could be causing your pain.
4. Myth: A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan will pinpoint the cause of my pain.
Fact: Actually, an MRI is not a definitive test. Some doctors use discography—which involves injecting dye into disks that may be causing the pain—to determine whether an abnormal disk on an MRI is the culprit.
5. Myth: Surgery is the only solution.
Fact: Surgery—which often involves removing a problematic disk—may offer quick relief, but the long-term benefits are unclear. Physical therapy can be very useful for people whose pain hasn’t improved after three to four weeks. You’ll learn exercises that will help improve your function and reduce pain. Acupuncture—which involves placing very thin needles in the skin—has also been shown to be helpful for chronic back pain.
If you’re struggling with sciatica, consider making an appointment with us. Physical therapy and acupuncture may be your tickets to a pain-free life.