Lanza Blog

SCIATICA: THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING By James Lanza, CPFI

It’s not the holidays. It’s not a gift. But boy does it give! For those of you lucky enough to never have had a problem with this little monster, and I’m not talking about the neighbor’s little kid, consider yourselves lucky. Unless your neighbor has a little monster. But that’s for another time.

Right now, let’s get into a problem some of you are dealing with as you read this. Sciatica. What it is. What it does. Why it won’t go away. And how you can deal with it. But first the basics.

The longest nerve in our bodies is called the sciatic nerve. It runs from the pelvic area through the buttock and hip and down each leg. It controls many of the muscles in the lower legs and provides feeling to the thighs, legs and feet. When this nerve becomes irritated or inflamed, the result is termed “sciatica”.

This is the pain that radiates along the path of this nerve, causing discomfort and pain from the buttock down the back of usually just one leg. The pain can vary, from mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating discomfort. Sometimes it may feel like a jolt or electric shock.

You do have to understand, however, that sciatica is not a disorder in and of itself. It is actually a symptom of another problem involving the nerve. The problem could be a herniated disc, a tumor, infection or trauma to the area. As we get older, we sometimes have some deterioration in the discs in our backs. By age 30 this can happen in some people and by age 40 some can develop herniated discs. Spinal stenosis, another leading cause of sciatica, strikes people in their 50’s and older. An occupation that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive for long periods of time can also make you more prone to sciatica.

Now that we know what it is, we’ll go on to how we deal with it. If you think this is what’s bothering you, and you’re sure it’s not the kid next door, see your doctor. He or she will go through your medical history and then perform a thorough physical exam paying special attention to the spine and legs. There will also be some tests involving muscle strength and reflexes.

As far as treatment goes, sciatica responds well to self-care measures. Hot and cold treatments, massage, Jacuzzi, acupuncture and some form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol. But here’s the kicker. Prolonged rest is not advisable. Inactivity just makes it worse. I don’t recommend a week at a Marine Boot Camp, but lying in bed for a week is not good either. Unless you hate your boss and not going to work would really tick him off. Just kidding. Go to work. Get up and move around. Light exercise.

I work with people with this ailment all of the time. Basic exercise, light flexibility stretching and heat/cold therapy seems to work fine.

The pain and discomfort associated with sciatica usually lasts for about six weeks, so if you find yourself hurting longer than that, or the symptoms are more severe than I’ve described here, please see your doctor immediately. Just to be on the safe side.

Now that we’ve covered all the bases…wait. Hold on. We missed one thing. PREVENTION. You didn’t think I was going to let you get away that fast.

Like anything else, it’s possible you will have a bout with this monster, but regular exercise can help you not get it. By paying special attention to your back muscles, core muscles and working on proper posture, you will keep these muscles strong. Hey wait a minute. That’s exactly what we do here in my studio. Well ain’t that a kick in the head.

Thanks for listening and have a healthy day!

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