SCIATICA – THE FACTS
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).
Look after your back, avoid twisting to lift heavy bags.