Dr. Kaixuan Liu

It’s probably not feasible to stop the degeneration that is caused by age of the spine, but good health habits can go an extended way in the prevention of back issues such as sciatica.

Sciatica refers to a condition that is used to describe nerve pain that starts from the back of your lower lumbar region. It can be felt in the buttock, through the back of the thigh and down into the leg. Sciatic pain can be felt through the sciatic nerve which is the longest nerve that runs through the body. Two sciatic nerves are present: the left and right one, both of which supply the respective leg. Sciatic pain is generally felt on the side of the nerve that is affected. “Sciatica is not a medical condition,” says Dr. Kaixuan Liu, Founder of Atlantic Spine Center. “It refers to a set of symptoms that are caused from anunderlying health issue which causes compression of the sciatic nerve when it arises from the spinal column. Sciatic pain may be severe or mild and can be treated through self-care. However, there could be indicators that warrant medical attention.”

What is sciatica be like?

Sciatic pain radiates from the sciatic nerve. It could be felt anyplace along the path of its travel. It’s typically experienced on one side of the buttock or lower back all the way to the leg, and usually towards the side and the back of the leg. The pain could be a slight ache or a burning sensation, or a severe pain that feels similar to heralding. The pain can be connected with numbness, tingling or weakness. There could be discomfort in one area of the leg, and numbness in the other. The symptoms may be worse or better depending on the position -standing, sitting, or standing, and can be relieved by walking. Medical attention must be sought promptly if there is a rapid neurological impairment, like leg weakness , or bowel or bladder dysfunction.

What is the cause of sciatica?

Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve gets stretched or pinched within the lumbar spine, usually due to an injured disc. Disks are cushions that absorb shock between vertebrae of the spine. Each disc is made up of a sturdy fibrous outer ring, and an inner ring that is soft and gel-like. A herniated disc develops when a tear occurs in the hard outer layer of cartilage allows a portion of the soft inner substance to protrude from the disc. Some other reasons for sciatica are spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the area that nerves travel through within the spinal canal, general degenerative changes to the discs and vertebrae and spasms in the pelvic or lumbar muscles.

Who are at risk of sciatica?

A large portion of the causes of sciatica can be traced to degeneration of the spinal cord that is caused by age which makes advancing age the leading risk reason. Other factors comprise obesity which can increase the strain upon the spinal column; jobs which require constant turning, carrying large weights and sitting for extended periodsof time; as well as diabetes, which can increase the risk of nerve injury.

What is sciatica treated?

The majority of cases of sciatica get better after between four and 6 weeks of surgical treatment usually involving some mix of medication, physical therapy or therapeutic injections. Sciatica is considered to be chronic if it persists for longer than 8 weeks. The length of treatment can be determined by the root causes.

The aim that physical therapy is used for with sciatica, it’s to build up the muscles in the abdomen, spine and buttocks, as well as the hips. to stretch tight muscles such as the hamstrings, increase the strength of the core and enhance fitness levels through easy exercises such as walking or water therapy. Massage therapy in various forms can help ease tight muscles and increase circulation. The medication options include prescription medications such as oral steroids or for brief periods opioid analgesics, over-the-counter remedies like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) like naproxen or ibuprofen as well as injections of steroidal medicine to manage nerve inflammation. Surgery is sometimes recommended in extreme cases or when there is evidence of neurological signs that are progressive.

What can sciatica help prevent sciatica?

“It is not feasible to stop all age-related degenerations of the back,” says Dr. Liu, “but general good lifestyle habits can help in stopping back issues such as sciatica. They include regular exercise, specifically strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen and back and a proper sitting area that provides good lower back support and an appropriate lifting techniques that let your legs, not the back do the lifting. The back is built to support your entire body. Be careful with it and it will get you to great heights!”

Atlantic Spine Center is a well-known leader nationally in endoscopic spine surgery, with numerous centers located in NJ in addition to NYC. http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com, http://www.atlanticspinecenter.nyc

Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD is a board-certified medical doctor who has been fellowship-trained in minimally-invasive spinal surgery. He is the creator of Atlantic Spine Center.

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