What is Sciatica? What Causes it and how do I know if have Sciatica Pain?

What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica Pain it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.

As many as 40% of people will get sciatica, or irritation of the sciatic nerve, at some point in their life. This nerve comes from either side of the lower spine and travels through the pelvis and buttocks. Then the nerve passes along the back of each upper leg before it divides at the knee into branches that go to the feet.

Common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • A constant pain in the buttock or leg, that increases if you sit
  • Burning, searing or tingling down the leg or in the foot (may feel like you are standing on ice)
  • A sharp shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up or walk
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot

Sciatica usually affects only one side of the lower body. Often, the pain extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also be felt in the foot.

For some people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating. For others, the sciatica pain might be infrequent and irritating, but has the potential to get worse.

While symptoms can be painful and potentially debilitating, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) will result.

Please seek immediate medical attention if you have progressive lower extremity weakness, numbness in the upper thighs, and/or loss of bladder or bowel control.

 What is Sciatic Pain - best ways to treat it

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by irritation of the root(s) of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine.

Additional common causes of sciatica include:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
  • Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae)
  • Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one)
  • Pregnancy

Other things that may make your back pain worse include being overweight, not exercising regularly, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft.

Bulging or Herniated Disk:

Bulging disk sciatica treatment

One of the most common causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain is a herniated disc, also known as a bulging disc or slipped disc.

The intervertebral discs are the soft discs in our spine, their role is the act as a buffer or cushion for the spinal vertebrae.  

Once the outer layer of these discs becomes weakened by age or injury, the centre of the disc can bulge out. Sciatica Nerve Pain can occur when the bulging disc puts excessive pressure on the nerve root. 

Will My TENS help Sciatica Pain?

Yes, TENS machines send electrical pulses through the skin to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. In theory, TENS machines should indeed work well for Sciatica. In addition to preventing the pain, TENS machines also aid in the release of Endorphins, which are natural pain killers found in your body.

Many people who suffer from Sciatica irritation use TENS machines regularly to help manage the pain. TENS machines are totally non-invasive and work over the long term with minimal side effects.

About 80% of people experience a great deal of relief in their Sciatica pain during their first use of a TENS machine. These numbers are very promising, and make it worth your while to at least test a TENS machine to see if one will work for you.

While pain relief is generally temporary, the real goal is to abolish the pain over the long-term. This is done by using a TENS machine to decrease pain enough for light exercise. The exercise is what really helps with Sciatica pain and is typically the suggested route.

TENS machines are used if pain has gotten to the point that it prevents someone from exercising. In this case, you’d use a TENS machine to relieve the pain enough so you can walk and get some mild movement in throughout your day. The action of exercising pain-free is what will truly help with your Sciatica pain in the long run.

TENS Unit Placement for Sciatica

Sciatica TENS placement for treatment

Knowing where to Place TENS Electrodes for Sciatica pain is essential to reaping the benefits of this simple process. In order to actually experience pain relief, you need to place the TENS pads correctly so that the pulses actually influence the pain signals.

To decide where the pads need to be placed, you may wish to have your physician assist you. What you should do is feel the painful area. The spot that hurts the most and causes a reaction is a good place to start. Generally, the most painful spots are found right along the Sciatica nerve. You can always move around the electrodes if you think it would help you more elsewhere. Try them on many different spots to see which place helps you the most.

Again, having a physician or therapist, or even another professional medical doctor help you when first using the TENS machine will be extremely beneficial. They will help you decide the best settings and assist in finding the most beneficial place for your TENS machine. Take the time to learn these things and you will get much more relief than if you were to just guess.

Surprisingly, the doctor may recommend you place the TENS machine on places that don’t hurt at all, as this can actually offer the same or even better pain relief without having to touch the painful area on your body. These trigger points (acupuncture sites) are the most effective places to put your electrodes, and a medical professional will be able to help you find them. 

There are really no cons to using a TENS machine. The machine itself is rather simple to operate and the entire process is non-invasive. You can use a TENS machine over the long term, and that vast majority of patients find it helpful for many uses. TENS therapy is low-risk and has minimal side effects. Its use has been proven to reduce and sometimes completely diminish pain, and it’s use to help people with Sciatica is also becoming more common every day.

If you believe you may be experiencing irritation of your Sciatica nerve, you should consult your doctor and detect any potential issues early on before the tingling/numbness turns into unbearable pain. If you’ve already reached that point, a TENS machine may very well be your answer to getting rid of the pain over the long-term. Remember, TENS machines for Sciatica pain are only used to reduce the pain so you can exercise, a TENS machine itself is not a cure, but instead a gateway to allow you to return to your typical activities and maintain a healthy lifestyle which will, in turn, help your Sciatica pain. Exercise is the best way to handle your sciatica nerve pain, and a TENS machine could help you do just that.

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