Sciatica typically is defined as mild to severe low back pain that radiates down your leg and is typically experienced on one side of the body. It is caused due to the compressed, irritated, or inflamed sciatica nerve.
The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and travels on either side of your legs down to the heel of the foot. Depending on the part of the sciatica nerve affected, pain is experienced anywhere along the path of the nerve.
Sciatica, also referred to as radiculopathy, sciatic neuralgia, lumbosacral radicular syndrome, or ischia is a very common complaint.
When a patient is experiencing sciatica that won’t go away, it is referred to as chronic sciatica.
Sciatica can be classified into two categories:
Acute sciatica is severe sciatica pain that may last between a few days to two weeks. In most cases, acute sciatica resolves itself with rest and pain medication with no long-term complications or disabilities.
Some patients experience multiple episodes of acute sciatica. Eventually, acute sciatica may turn into chronic sciatica if left untreated.
Chronic sciatica is referred to as sciatica pain that is persistent for more than three months. Chronic sciatica can affect mobility and affect the quality of life preventing basic movements or even sound sleep.
Six Common Causes of Chronic Sciatica
- Herniated Disc
Age-related wear and tear often cause the inner soft jelly-like core of the spinal disc to leak through a crack in the outer layer of the disc causing a bulging or herniated disc. A herniated disc in the lower back often compresses the sciatic nerve roots leading to persistent sciatica. A herniated disc may also be the result of a formation of a bone spur that compresses the sciatic nerve causing sciatica. If left untreated this bone spur results in chronic sciatica.
- Degenerative Disc Disease
Natural wear and tear in the spinal disc occur gradually with age. This can cause one or more spinal discs to deteriorate causing degenerative disc disease (DDD). Aging also decreases the influx of oxygen and nutrients to the discs causing further deterioration. Disc degeneration occurring in the lower back often compresses the sciatic nerve causing sciatica. This condition occurs gradually as you age and may lead to chronic sciatica.
A traumatic injury such as an accident or a fall, or repetitive physical activating involving continuous movements like lifting, bending, twisting often cause a herniated disc. The resulting sciatica a patient experiences is often chronic if the underlying cause is left untreated.
Chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis often cause the sciatic nerve to be inflamed. This can lead to constant and persistent sciatica.
People who have a sedentary lifestyle or those who have prolonged periods of inactivity often tend to develop chronic sciatica pain. Obesity and smoking also increase the risk of developing nerve inflammation leading to chronic sciatica.
Age-related wear and tear to the spinal cord can lead to several conditions including narrowing of the spinal canal referred to as spinal stenosis, slipping or dislocation of the spinal vertebrae also referred to as spondylolisthesis. These age-related conditions often cause chronic sciatica.
Treatment for Chronic Sciatica
Acute sciatica is generally resolved within a short period with rest, application of hot/cold packs, and over-the-counter medication to relieve pain and inflammation.
Chronic sciatica treatment involves a combination of home-care treatment and exercises, physical therapy, and non-surgical treatment including spinal decompression and spinal manipulation therapy.
Spinal decompression therapy reduces the pressure on the spine thereby encouraging the flow of nutrients and oxygen leading to natural healing of the spine. Spinal decompression also increases the disc height and is a safe, non-invasive treatment option to treat several back pain problems that cause chronic sciatica.
Needing to know about your options to help you with your Sciatica pain? Reach out to our office today to book your appointment so we can help in your return to great back health.