WEST ORANGE, N.J., April 16, 2019 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- "Causes of sciatica are multiple and sometimes difficult to pinpoint,"
The problem initially develops when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched or compressed due, typically, to a herniated or bulging spinal disc in the lumbar (lower) region of the back; lumbar spinal stenosis, a nerve compression disorder affecting older adults; degenerative disc disease like spondylolisthesis; bone spurs – an overgrowth of bone – on the vertebrae; or injury to the lower back, Dr. Chang explains.
Some flareups, however, are idiopathic in nature and sometimes blamed on carrying heavy loads, prolonged sitting such as at a desk job, driving a vehicle for extended periods, and "strange" sleeping positions. However, "there is a lack of conclusive evidence linking some of these 'causes' directly to sciatica," says Dr. Chang.
He concurs that wear-and-tear on the spine due to advancing age; obesity, which increases pressure on the lower back; and diabetes can increase a person's risk for the disorder. Shakespeare referred to sciatic pain as a "curse" in one of his plays, and early Germans called it "the witch's slot" because they believed the pain was linked to demons or devils.
Dr. Chang reassures the disorder is anything but supernatural. It is, instead, he says, a common physical malady affecting approximately 5 percent of men and 4 percent of women at some time in their lives and causing a significant number of lost work days. More than five million cases of sciatica are reported each year in the United States.
"Anyone who has experienced episodes of sciatica dreads its potential recurrence," Dr. Chang says. "The pain is not necessarily disabling but oftentimes serious, difficult to endure and a source of anxiety."
Mild cases of sciatica clear up within a few weeks, with most doctors recommending self-treatment, including gentle exercises and low-impact aerobics like swimming and limited use of over-the-counter pain-relievers. More severe and chronic sciatica might require prescribed medications, corticosteroid injections, physical therapy or other conservative approaches.
Only if sciatica pain is uncontrolled, worsening or leads to symptoms of concern like bowel and bladder dysfunction or leg weakness will surgery be warranted to correct the source of the pain, Dr. Chang states.
A Massachusetts General Hospital study published in the May 2018 issue of the journal Pain indicates patients with chronic sciatica have been found with elevated markers for inflammation in their nervous system. The finding, authors say, indicates potential pathways of effective therapy for such patients, including direct treatment of the neuroinflammation in the spinal cord. Dr. Chang adds, "this is a great argument for why epidural steroid injections are an excellent treatment for sciatica, at least initially as opposed to surgery."
Dr. Chang advises that the best course of treatment for sciatica is prevention. He offers these tips to reduce risks:
Atlantic Spine Center is a nationally recognized leader for endoscopic spine surgery and pain management with several locations in NJ and NYC. http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com, http://www.atlanticspinecenter.nyc
Kaliq Chang, MD, is an interventional pain management specialist, double board-certified in anesthesiology and pain management.
SOURCE Atlantic Spine Center
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