SCI­AT­ICA – THE FACTS

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What is it?

The sci­atic nerve is the body’s largest, run­ning from the base of the spine down the back of the thigh to the knee, where it di­vides into branches. The term sci­at­ica is loosely used to de­scribe all types of pain ex­tend­ing from the lum­bar (lower back) re­gion into the lower limb, says Dr Sreed­hara DK, spe­cial­ist or­thopaedic sur­geon, iCare Clin­ics, Dubai. The pain is in­tense and ag­gra­vated by cough­ing and strain­ing. Other symp­toms in­clude numb­ness, tin­gling and mus­cle weak­ness in the af­fected area.

What causes it?

Pres­sure on the nerve, most of­ten caused by a slipped disc (also known as a pro­lapsed or her­ni­ated disc) in the lum­bar re­gion (lower back). Dr Sreed­hara says there are sev­eral con­di­tions – in­clud­ing os­teoarthri­tis and tu­mours – in the lower back that can give rise to sci­atic pain. If there’s also loss of sen­sa­tion around the but­tocks, dif­fi­culty con­trol­ling the blad­der or bowel, or weak­ness in the leg and foot, see you doc­tor as it can be caused by a rare con­di­tion known as cauda equine syn­drome.

What’s the treat­ment?

Of­ten sci­at­ica rights it­self within six weeks. Painkillers, anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs, phys­io­ther­apy or os­teopa­thy can help. If those don’t work then spinal surgery may be sug­gested. IDD ther­apy, pi­o­neered in Amer­ica, is be­com­ing more widely avail­able. To be ef­fec­tive, Dr Sreed­hara says a pa­tient should go for a min­i­mum of 20 ses­sions. IDD is avail­able at the Amer­i­can Spine Cen­tre, Dubai Health­care City (Dh999 for six ses­sions).

Preven­tion

Look af­ter your back, avoid twist­ing to lift heavy bags.

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