Back pain takes so much from us. In fact, it can be hard to remember a time in our life when we were able to move freely without restriction, discomfort, and dread if we are dealing with sciatica. Nearly 65 million Americans experience sciatica. For more than 16 million Americans, sciatica is persistent.
Living with persistent sciatica can severely limit a person's ability to participate in daily activities. In addition, chronic sciatica can result in high medical costs accrued over years of seeing different doctors and specialists for treatments. Does having sciatica means that you'll live with sciatica forever? First, it's helpful to understand the underlying factors that cause sciatica. Many people are able to make lifestyle changes that enable them to reclaim their lives back from sciatica. Here's a shortcut to understanding your sciatica.
What Causes Back Pain?
Sciatica stems from many different sources. The most common cause of sciatica is poor ergonomics. Yes, many people create back problems by sitting or standing improperly for long hours each day during work. Here's a look at common reasons why people experience sciatica:
- Pulled Muscles: Lifting or moving heavy objects improperly is a top cause of sciatica. It's common to experience a sprain or strain after using an awkward, improper movement to move an object. Symptoms of sciatica caused by improper movement include pain, soreness, tightness, and spasms.
- Inflammation: Inflammation can occur when we sit with improper posture for too long because our muscles quickly become tight. We can even create misalignments in the spine. In addition, certain illnesses and diseases can contribute to inflammation throughout the back.
- Arthritis:If you have arthritis, it's even more important to take care of your back because arthritis is linked with increased pain and inflammation throughout the joints in the body.
- Osteoporosis: If you have osteoporosis, it's essential to give your back proper support because decreased bone mass can make it more likely to injure your back.
- Herniated and Ruptured Discs: Fast, improper movements can cause the discs in the spine to move out of place. When this happens, painful bulges occur.
- Stress:If you're tasked with standing all day, your spine is taking on the pressure and stress of keeping your body upright for hours. This can create sore, tired, and strained muscles that can result in an unnatural arching or curvature of your back.
Different Types of Back Pain
There are several different types of sciatica commonly experienced by people. While some forms of sciatica are isolated, others can impact the whole body. If you're dealing with sciatica, here's a look at what might be going on:
- Nerve Pain: Nerve pain often manifests as a shooting or radiating pain. It's often referred to as radiculopathy by doctors. Generally, you'll feel the pain shooting from your spinal cord down the path of the nerve that is affected. Nerve pain tends to be concentrated in the lumbar spine, legs, cervical spine, or arms.
- Sciatic Pain: Sciatic pain is a specific type of nerve pain caused by compression of the spinal root that affects the back, hip, and outer leg.
- Muscle Strain: If you have a muscle strain caused by pressure and stress on your back, you're likely to experience it in the regions of the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius, erectors spinae, and rhomboids.
- Middle Sciatica: Pain that manifests in the middle of the back is often caused by lifting, trying new exercises, sitting for prolonged periods of time, or having poor sleeping positions.
- Low Back Pain: Sciatica can range from a dull ache to strong, burning pain with spasms. Injuries involving slipped discs or compressed nerves are often to blame for sciatica. In addition, pulled muscles and ligaments caused by picking up heavy objects improperly are closely linked with low sciatica.
Should You See a Doctor for Back Pain?
Seeing a doctor for sciatica is always beneficial. However, it's also important to remember that any work that a doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist can do with you only represents a single hour out of the 168 hours per week that you're living with your back. This is why using at-home exercises and back supports is the key for the long-term healing of sciatica.