Sciatica is amongst the most common types of pain, and around 40% of people experience it in their lifetime. It is a term used to describe pain that takes place anywhere along the Sciatic nerve, with the most common site being the lower back, the buttock, and down one leg.
The leg pain usually goes past the knee and may also go to the foot. The sciatic nerves make the largest nervous system in the body and are typically finger-length. They are formed by two sacral and two lumbar nerve roots that then join in the lowest part of the spine.
The nerve roots protrude from the column of the spine in the back and travel behind the hip joint. They pass all the way to the buttock and finally all the way down to the back of the leg, the foot, and the ankle.
Sciatica occurs when the lower back nerve is irritated or compressed, leading to pain that travels all the way to the leg. It can also lead to numbness and tingling in the feet, and the pain can be quite severe at times.
Can Knee Pain be a Result of Sciatica?
Knee pain that is not the result of a physical injury may be caused by an issue in your lower back. The muscles surrounding the knees are powered by nerves that begin in the lower spine, and any irritation there can result in sciatica.
Knee pain that has the following characteristics can be a result of sciatica:
-A warm feeling in the affected area, sharp jabs of pain, or dull ache in the side, front, and/or back of the knee.
-Knee buckling (sudden giving out of the knee).
-The inability of the knee to hold any weight.
-Weakness or pain while stretching the knee or straightening the leg.
-Pain in areas such as the calf, foot, buttock, and or thigh.
-Experiencing pain while lifting and sitting down.
-Extreme pain when getting up from the bed in the morning.
-Numbness in one or both limbs, resulting in dragging of the foot when walking.
Sciatica can develop over time or happen overnight, depending on the cause. Spine arthritis takes time to develop, while a disk herniation can result in unexpected pain.
The following are some of the risk factors that can trigger sciatica.
A present or past injury – If you have experienced an injury to your spine or lower back, you might be at a higher risk for developing sciatica.
Age – Ageing is an inevitable natural phenomenon that accompanies the wearing down of spinal disks and bone tissues. After a certain age, you might become more prone to nerve injuries due to changes in the disks, ligaments, and bones.
Obesity – Your spine constantly carries the weight of your body, and the back muscles act as counterweights. If there is more weight to lift, the spine and muscles will have a harder time, resulting in back pains, strain, and other similar issues.
A weak core – The “core” of your body comprises the abdomen and back muscles. The stronger your core, the more supportive your lower back will be. Remember that your muscles are the only support system that the lower back has, which is why a strong core is critical.
Physical Stress – If your job entails a lot of physical activity, such as heavy lifting, it can strain the back. Similarly, jobs with long periods of sitting may increase the risk of back problems.
Diabetes – Diabetes is a health condition that can increase the possibility of nerve damage which can then cause sciatica.
Treatment for Sciatica – Best Home Remedies to Try
Sciatica can affect several areas of your body, and the associated pain is at times very severe and excruciating. As you grow old, this pain can become more prominent and frequent but is fortunately treatable.
With consistent care, you can expect sciatica knee pain to go away within a span of three months, that too with at-home care. Here we have listed the best home remedies to try for knee pain relief.
You may think that physical activity of any form might be counterintuitive, but in reality, it can effectively help alleviate the symptoms of sciatica. Stretching is one such exercise that should be performed gently and slowly. If you notice any sharp pain while doing it, stop instantly.
Begin by pulling your knees to your chest, and then try doing a seated spinal twist. To do a seated spinal twist, begin by sitting on the floor with your arms tucked behind your back and legs straight in front.
Next, put your hands on the ground behind you. Put your left foot flat on the floor, right outside your right knee. Breathe in and put your right arm up, then put it down while breathing out.
Put your elbow on the outside of your left leg. Turn your head, chest, and eyes to the left and retain that position for a minute. F
inally, gently bring your head and chest back to the original position. Do the same process on the other side.
The purpose of stretching is to release pressure in the calves, hamstrings, and buttocks, which can strain the sciatic nerve.
Applying a Heating Pad and Ice Pack
Applying cold and heat to the affected area in an alternating style can relieve pain from the nerve. Moreover, it also helps prevent the occurrence of muscle spasms which is pretty common with sciatica.
Ice reduces inflammation while heat stimulates blood flow to the problem area, thereby promoting faster healing.
Apply an ice pack to the affected area for around 15 minutes once every hour. Follow the cold therapy by applying heat to the same area for also 15 minutes, once every 2 to 3 hours.
Do not put cold or heat directly to your skin, and make sure to use a barrier, such as a towel. Also, do not go overboard with the time.
Using a Wedge Seat Cushion
A wedge seat cushion is designed with a slight downward slope which puts your body in an ideal sitting position. Using this cushion while sitting or driving helps improve the overall posture by pushing the pelvis forward and placing your back in an erect position.
Moreover, it also helps strengthen the core’s stability, eliminates back pain, and provides a more supportive posture for working. If you are someone who sits for long periods of time, then investing in a good quality wedge seat cushion can significantly improve your sciatica pain.
Changing your Posture
Whether you are at home enjoying a movie or at work crunching the numbers, staying in one position for too long can be bad news. Prolonged periods of inactivity can worsen the sciatica pain and also prevent it from healing quickly.
To avoid that, switch your posture every 20 minutes, and sitting up straight without hunching can take the strain off your spine. When your spine is not under pressure, you will experience fewer symptoms of sciatica, including knee, lower back, and leg pain.
If at-home remedies are not alleviating your sciatica pain, it might be time to see a doctor. You will then have the option to undergo either of the two common sciatica surgeries, discectomy or laminectomy.
Depending on your needs and whatever is perceived best, your spine specialist or physician will recommend a method. But before you head to the hospital, make sure to give these effective home remedies a try.