Health is wealth. For us to enjoy a rich and comfortable life, we need to be physically and mentally fit. Without good heath, we cannot enjoy our jobs, hobbies, family or relationships. Unfortunately, our bodies are prone to developing a wide range of diseases and health complications. One of these is sciatica. It is a condition which is caused by an improper compression of the sciatic nerve. It is located in the lower part of the spine and causes pain when one is suffering from this condition. The pain of sciatica can be mild or severe. In both cases, it is uncomfortable to live with since it curtails body movement to a small or large degree depending on the intensity of the problem. Read on to learn what causes sciatica, its main symptoms, the treatments used to relieve the condition and answer the question, How long does sciatica last?
What is the sciatic nerve?
This is one of the most prominent nerves. Located in the back, it is actually the widest and longest one in the human body. This nerve begins in the lower back, through the buttocks and down your legs ending right above the knee. The sciatic nerve controls a collection of muscles in the legs. Moreover, it governs sensation in a large part of the lower leg and skin on our feet. Despite popular opinion, sciatica is actually not a condition on its own but a symptom of an underlying problem with the sciatic nerve. According to statistics, 40% of people will experience some sort of problem with their sciatic nerves at least once in their lives and wonder, “How long does sciatica last?”
What causes sciatica?
This symptom can be caused by a wide range of problems with the nerve. However, in most cases, sciatica is caused by a slipped disk in the in the spinal column. Our spines are made of vertebrae, nerves and disks. Vertebrae are individual bones in the spine which protect the nerves lying underneath. They are made of hard bone tissue. On the other hand, disks are made of cartilage and act as cushions between vertebrae. They also make the spine flexible. A disk can get pushed out of place. In ths position, it is known as a herniated disk and it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. As a result, it causes pain to the person suffering this condition. A herniated disk is the main cause of sciatica. Other causes of the symptom include:
• Lumbar spinal stenosis: This is where the spinal cord gets narrow towards the lower back
• Spondylolisthesis: This is where a disk slips in a forward direction over the vertebra below its position
• Spine tumors: These can cause pressure upon the root of the sciatic nerve
• Infections of the spine
• Injury to the spine
• Cauda equina syndrome: This is a serious disease of the nerves in the lower part of the spinal cord
In most cases, sciatica is caused by a combination of two or more problems which prompts the question, “How long does sciatica last?”
What are the risk factors of sciatica?
There are some circumstances which increase one’s risk of developing sciatica. Firstly, people who are 30 years and above are at high risk of developing sciatica. Moreover, those who are in jobs that involve lifting heavy things for long periods of time also have a high risk of developing this symptom. In addition to that, people who live a sedentary lifestyle where they don’t move for long periods of time have a high risk of developing sciatica. Active people have a lower risk.
How can sciatica be cured?
This is the milder form of this symptom. It can be treated using medical self-care measures. Examples of these are taking over the counter painkillers, light stretching, exercises such as walking and applying compression packs which can be hot or cold. In most cases, relief is brought by alternating these compression packs. If you have acute sciatica and want to use painkillers as a solution, make sure to consult your physician and ask, “How long does sciatica last?” before doing so.
This is the more serious form of this symptom. Treatment for chronic sciatica normally involves a combination of both self-care and medical treatment. The self-care portion involves consuming painkillers. On the other hand, the medical treatment involves sessions of physical therapy. Also, people suffering from chronic sciatica normally undergo Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is where they are trained to react differently to their pain than normal people would. The treatment instills a positive reaction which eventually leads to better management of the condition.
If treatment for chronic sciatica does not yield any results, the patient may have to undergo surgery to place the herniated disk properly. There are two types of surgeries which can be used to correct sciatica. They are:
• Lumbar laminectomy: This is where the spinal cord is widened in the lower back so as to reduce the pressure being applied on the nerves
• Discectomy: Here, the surgeons remove part or all of the herniated disk
Prior to surgery, the patient is informed of the risk and benefits of each type of surgery. This helps to them to weigh it as one of the permanent solutions to their sciatica.
How long does sciatica last?
The pain felt as a result of this symptom takes some time to go away. Depending on the type of sciatica that you are suffering from, it can take a short or a long period of time. People suffering from acute sciatica can expect their pain attacks to last for a week or two if they have been suffering from the condition for less than five years. Also, acute sciatica attacks normally happen between two and six times a year.
Physical strain, emotional anxiety or stress can be triggers of acute sciatica attacks.Chronic sciatica attacks are far more prolonged. They last for a longer period of time or simply do not go away at all. While the pain can last for long periods of time, it is not as severe as that of acute sciatica attacks. This may be because the patients have developed a resistance to it over time and learned how to endure it for long. While it is impossible for chronic sciatica to just appear out of the blue, it is often a life-long condition because of how difficult it is to treat with methods other than surgery.
So how long does sciatica last? Sciatica is one of the most commonly observed back pain symptoms. Thanks to modern technology and advances in medicine, it can be cured or managed. The information above sheds light on the condition allowing you to learn how to spot sciatica and get medical attention as quickly as possible to prevent further complication.