Parish Nurse Corner June: Signs of SCIATICA

Our parish nurse Jan Sandos provides us with a monthly column keeping us informed of pertinent medical information.

Psalm 25:18—“Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins.”


 Numbness, tingling, and discomfort through the buttocks and legs are all signs a person may be suffering from sciatica.  Sciatica is associated with pain that runs along the route of the sciatic nerve.  While common side effects are felt in the lower half of the body, the issues actually begin in the back.  The source of sciatica comes from pressure or pinching of this nerve at the spine, usually due to inflammation or physical compression from a bone spur, arthritis or disc bulge.

Symptoms & Diagnosis:  True sciatica involves numbness and tingling side effects below the knees and sometimes into the big toe.  Some feel as though their ankle is dragging or their foot is slapping the ground when they walk.  While the source of sciatica begins in the back, those suffering from the condition will not always experience back pain.  Any radiating discomfort into the lower extremities directly along the course of a spinal nerve root is a component of a more severe nerve compression issue at play.

Treatment: Today’s sciatica treatments are based on physical approaches that encourage movement and little bed rest.  Often, treatment plans will begin with physical therapy, ice and heat, and some medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, or a nerve pain remedy.  Acupuncture and chiropractic care have also been shown to help.  The good news is that most of the time sciatica gets better and resolves itself on its own.  Most symptoms will diminish in two or three months, and most back pain associated with it will get better in four to six weeks.

Back pain is usually something everyone has at some point in their life.  It’s estimated that back pain affects 50% of the population every year.  Sciatica is not always as common, but a simple combination of activity modification, exercise, and even something as simple as postural change, can be easy treatments.  Exercise should be the primary medicine.

Some extreme cases of sciatica will require surgery to fix the source of the issue.  People are often referred to surgeons if they have progressive weakness in their lower body, if there is a significant acute disc herniation, or if their pain can’t be relieved with conservative measures.  Remember, though, that other abnormalities in a person’s biomechanics, posture, or hips can radiate pain into the leg.  But if you have pain, especially if it is not getting better, it’s best to have it checked out to determine the actual diagnosis.


From Healthy Living Made Simple