The sciatic nerve runs along the spine and back of the legs and can cause pain and discomfort when inflamed or irritated, a set of symptoms known as sciatica. It is not uncommon to experience sciatica, at least in a mild form, at some point in your life. This is especially true if you are relatively inactive and work at a desk job. Familiarizing yourself with the following symptoms will help you determine if you are experiencing sciatica or another type of back and leg pain.
Where are Symptoms Experienced?
Sciatica can be caused by compression, irritation or damage to the sciatic nerves, but it can also involve any of the five lumbar nerves in the lower back as well. Symptoms can be experienced anywhere along the length of the lower calves in either leg, from the buttocks to the lower back. It can be experienced in either leg, but usually, settles in one or the other.
Pain and Stiffness
Some of the more aggressive symptoms of sciatica are pain and stiffness. The pain can crop up anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve. It can be a dull pain or very sharp. Some patients have reported it as an unrelenting ache, whereas others seem to experience sharp and shooting pains. It can stiffen the back and leg muscles to the point that getting around can be extremely difficult and painful.
Numbness and Tingling
Numbness and tingling in the leg are common with sciatica. It is not uncommon to feel pain in one leg and experience tingling or numbness in the other leg. Because sciatica seems to be an ailment commonly associated with sedentary lifestyles, the tingling and numbness alone can make it even more difficult to get up and move around. It can become difficult to walk, sit, stand, and achieve restful sleep.
Bladder and Bowel Control
Temporary loss of bladder and bowel control can be a very embarrassing symptom of sciatica. It can also increase the frequency that you need to go. You can either feel no real urge to use the bathroom or a sense of increased urgency.
Are sciatica symptoms serious?
Mild cases of sciatica will generally go away on their own. It can prove helpful to simply get up more often and move around. Severe symptoms and sudden onset after a fall or vehicle accident are two reasons to make sure you see a medical professional right away. It could signal serious nerve damage that goes beyond mild sciatica. If the symptoms are keeping you from working, sleeping, or living comfortably, you should seek medical advice.
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