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Sciatica - Understanding the Basics
Author: Anne Wolski

Copyright 2006 Anne Wolski

Sciatica is a relatively common condition which is characterized by sharp pains in the leg and trouble moving. The most important thing to do when you are suffering from sciatica is to rest in bed but there are other treatments available as well.

The main cause of sciatica is slipped disks. This will generally affect the nerves in the limbs but it is the pressure on some of the nerves toward the back of the leg that causes most of the discomfort. This pressure causes sharp, stabbing pain which may come on suddenly or may develop gradually. This pain will become recurrent if the disks do not heal correctly

The vertebral or spinal disks separate the vertebrae and are made of tissue with a soft centre. This acts as a shock absorber and allows the vertebrae to be flexible so that people can bend and stretch. Sometimes, excessive back strain or even age, can weaken the outer layer of the disk, causing the soft centre to bulge and put pressure on the nerve to the leg, causing the pain associated with sciatica.

The first indicator of a slipped disk is the presence of lower back pain which may happen suddenly when bending or it may happen gradually during a period of hard work. As the disk places pressure on the spinal nerves, it creates a sharp pain that is felt in the buttock and the back of the thigh. As the condition worsens, the slightest movement such as coughing may bring on or intensify the pain. Sitting for long periods can become painful as the nerves become stretched and thereby intensify the irritation.

A person with severe sciatica may find it difficult to walk as any movement causes the pain to reappear or to become worse. Often, the only comfort for the sufferer is to lie on his or her back with the knees bent to relieve the pressure on the nerves. Sciatica caused by a slipped disk will usually improve if bed rest is undertaken.

It is now routine for health care specialists to advise two weeks of continuous bed rest with the knees and hips flexed and with weight traction to the pelvic region. If this treatment does not reduce the herniation of the disk, surgery may be needed.

As well as bed rest, painkillers may be prescribed though ordinary analgesics such as aspirin may be adequate. It is crucial to stay in bed until the disk is fully healed. To give in to the temptation to get up before this happens can be appealing but to do so will return the process to square one.

Usually, surgery is only used as a last resort. This can sometimes happen when the person has had a number of episodes where bed rest has not improved the condition. It may also be used for those who cannot take lengthy periods of time off work. However, not all disk problems are operable. Only the doctor can decide, through the use of X-rays, whether the particular condition is suitable for surgery and also the extent of surgery.

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Anne Wolski has worked in the health and welfare industry for more than 30 years. She is a co-director of www.magnetic-health-online.com an information portal with many interesting medical articles and also of www.pharmacybyweb.com which has online physicians who can help you with any questions you may have.

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