Sciatica is a painful health condition that radiates from the sciatica nerve. Sciatica pain can be felt through your lower back, hips, and down your legs. Depending on the severity of this condition, sciatica can be a minor annoyance or dramatically impact the quality of your daily life. Age-related health issues are the primary cause of this health condition, but luckily there are steps you can take to help prevent the development of sciatica.
For someone unfamiliar with this condition, you’re bound to have a lot of questions. What does sciatica feel like? Can you have sciatica in both legs? And of course, what even is sciatica? Here, we’re answering all these questions and more and taking a look at this nerve pain problem. We also review effective treatment options for those experiencing sciatica pain.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to the pain that spreads from the sciatica nerve, which runs from your lower back down to your hips and through your legs. When something causes this nerve to get pinched, pain radiates from the nerve and spreads down the body. Sciatica can also cause inflammation and numbness in these parts of the body.
What Does Sciatica Feel Like?
While each case of sciatica is unique to the individual, this health condition is characterized by pain that radiates from the lower back and down through the buttocks and legs. This pain is the primary symptom for those experiencing sciatica. Sciatica pain can range form a mild irritation to serious, excruciating pain. Sciatica may feel like a mild ache, an electrical shock, or even a burning sensation. In some cases, sciatica pain is also associated with tingling in this part of the body, muscle weakness, or numbness.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica pain, as the name suggests, occurs when the sciatica nerve gets pinched or compressed. Generally, this pain is caused by a herniated disc or a bone spur in the vertebrae. In some cases, much rarer ones, sciatica can be caused by diseases like diabetes or even a tumor.
Additionally, there are certain risk factors that can increase someone’s chances of developing sciatica over the course of their lives. Scientific research suggests that age-related issues are the most common cause of sciatica pain. As we get older, it’s natural for certain health risks to increase, including herniated discs and bone spurs. Obesity is another risk factor for someone to develop sciatica pain. Obesity, especially over the years, puts additional pressure on your spine, which can lead to issues that will pinch the sciatica nerve.
Occupation may also play a role in developing sciatica. Jobs that require carrying heavy loads or stress on your lower back, such as construction, moving, or postal work, can increase the potential that you may develop sciatica. Jobs that require someone to sit for most of the day, which includes most office jobs, can also cause stress on your back and cause sciatica pain. For those in these professions, it’s important to remain active and try to get light to moderate exercise into your schedule each day.
Can You Have Sciatica in Both Legs?
In the majority of cases, sciatica pain will only affect one leg. However, this isn’t always the case. Some people may experience sciatica in both legs. What causes this difference? Doctors suggest that it comes down to where along the spinal column that the pinch or compression of the sciatica nerve occurs. So, yes, you can have sciatica in both legs—it’s just a lot less common than sciatica in one leg.
How to Prevent Sciatica
While sciatica is not always preventable, many cases can be prevented if the individual takes certain precautions. Doctors have identified three primary methods to preventing sciatica: regular exercise, proper posture, and good body mechanics. Here’s a closer look at this preventative measures.
- Regular exercise: regular exercise will benefit every aspect of your health, including the prevention of sciatica pain. It’s recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise every day.
- Proper posture: poor posture, over time, can cause stress on your lower back and lead to sciatica. Especially if you sit for work or for long periods of time each day, ensure that you maintain proper posture.
- Good body mechanics: it’s always important to practice good body mechanics so you don’t injure yourself. For example, if you’re bending over to lift something heavy, always lift with your legs—not your back.
However, it’s important to note that sciatica is not always preventable. If you are experiencing sciatica pain, keep reading to learn about effective treatment options.
How to Treat Sciatica Pain
Effective treatment comes down to the specific cause of your sciatica pain. For some people, sciatica pain may fade away with time. For others, improving your posture or getting more exercise can help your sciatica pain decrease until you hardly even notice it.
Some relatively simple self-care treatment options have proved effective for many individuals. One of the most effective self-care treatments is by applying ice and hot packs to the source of the pain. Simply wrap an ice pack or frozen bag of vegetables in a towel and apply it for 20 minutes at a time. Switch to a heating pad after several days. Additionally, performing gentle stretches on a regular basis can help reduce sciatica pain.
For some, over-the-counter medications can prove effective at treating this pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil or Aleve, can help reduce inflammation and pain. Tylenol is also an effective option if you can’t take NSAIDs.
Conclusion – Can You Have Sciatica in Both Legs?
Sciatica pain can make daily activities almost impossible. Depending on the severity of your sciatica pain, you may also have reduce mobility and find it hard to be active or even just sit back and enjoy a movie. Luckily, there are several treatment options that can help reduce this type of pain and help you return to a normal life. Yes, you can have sciatica in both legs, but with preventative measures and treatment, you can also rid yourself of this pain completely.