One form of pain that patients typically experience is sciatica. However, many people don’t understand exactly what sciatica is and what they can do to treat it.

The basics on sciatica

Sciatica is pain and related symptoms that result when the sciatic nerve is pinched or aggravated. The pain can be experienced at any part of the nerve, which stretches from the bottom of the feet to the lower back. Numbness and tingling are also sometimes reported, along with weakness in the lower extremities.

Sciatic nerve pain is experienced by 1 to 10% of people, according to the Australian Virtual Medical Centre. The age bracket most at risk is 25 to 45 years old.

Long-standing sciatica myths

Symptoms and diagnoses are often misunderstood, and sciatica is no exception. Let’s look at some common misperceptions.

Misperception #1 – Sciatica is a diagnosis.

Sciatica is actually not diagnosed because it’s not a disease or health condition. Instead, it’s a group of symptoms, explains Medical Journal of Orthopedics and Rheumatology editor Michael A. Gleiber, MD.

“These symptoms, including pain, weakness, or numbness in the buttocks or leg and a burning or tingling sensation down the leg, are collectively known as sciatica,” he says. “However, sciatica does not indicate the root cause of the symptoms.”

Misperception #2 – Sciatica only results from one condition.

Many people think that sciatica is always associated with disc herniation. While that is the most prevalent root cause, other conditions that can irritate or compress the sciatic nerve include bone spurs, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and spondylolisthesis.

Misperception #3 – Back pain always accompanies the leg pain.

Generally, those suffering from sciatica in the hips, buttocks, and legs will also experience back pain. However, sometimes the back won’t hurt. When pain is isolated to the legs, misdiagnosis is common.

Misperception #4 – The best way to treat sciatica is rest.

If the pain is excruciating, it can be a good idea to rest for a day or two. However, exercise is actually an important part of recovery. You want to maintain a strong back and core so that your spine is properly supported. Stretch every day. Yoga can help as well. Note that you should get medical help to modify workouts and avoid reinjury.

Misperception #5 – Surgery is the only option.

Surgery should always be considered a last resort to treat sciatica. At Health Star Clinic, we practice a responsible pain management approach that avoids surgery and minimizes the need for prescription medication. Learn more.