Don’t let leg pain ruin your day

2019-03-13 06:01

OVERVIEW

Sciatica is a shooting pain that begins in the lower back, radiates into the buttock and down the back of one leg. The pain is often caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve from a herniated disc, bone spurs or muscle strain. You play an important role in the prevention, treatment, and recovery of leg pain. It typically improves with rest, physical therapy, and other self-care measures. Chronic pain may be helped with surgery

Types of leg pain

Leg pain ranges from mild to severe and can be acute or chronic.

Acute sciatic pain occurs suddenly and usually heals within several days to weeks. The severity relates directly to the amount of tissue injury. The source of pain may be in the spinal joints, discs, nerves, or muscles and ligaments.

Chronic sciatic pain persists for more than three months and its source may be hard to determine.

Chronic pain may be felt all the time or worsen with certain activities. Contributing factors may include nerve damage, tissue scarring, arthritis, or mental effects of pain. People with chronic symptoms may be referred to a pain specialist.

What are the symptoms?

Classic sciatic pain starts in the low back and buttocks. It affects one leg, travelling down the back of the thigh, past the knee, and sometimes into the calf and foot. The pain feels worse in the leg than in the back. It may range from a mild ache to severe burning or a shooting pain. Numbness or tingling (pins-and-needles) can occur in your leg and foot. This usually is not a concern unless you have weakness in your leg muscles or foot drop.

Sitting usually causes the most pain because of the weight this position puts onto the discs.

Activities, such as bending or twisting, worsen the pain, whereas lying down tends to bring relief. Running or walking may actually feel better than sitting or standing for too long.

Sciatica can be caused by a number of conditions­ that irritate or compress the sciatic­ nerve:

• Piriformis syndrome — Tightening or spasm of the piriformis muscle can compress the nerve.

• Trauma — A sports injury or fall can fracture the spine or tear a muscle and damage nerves.

• Herniated disc — The gel-like centre of a spinal disc can bulge or rupture through a weak area in the disc wall and compress nerves.

• Osteoarthritis —As discs naturally age they dry out and shrink. Small tears in the disc wall can be painful.

What treatments are available?

Healing begins with self-care and non-surgical strategies. The goal is to correct the problem, restore function, and prevent re-injury. Medication such as over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, can bring relief. A muscle relaxant may be prescribed for spasms. If pain is severe, an analgesic may be prescribed that can be taken with the NSAID or other analgesic therapies available. — Supplied.

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