Mr Panos Liantis, Consultant Spinal Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital (part of HCA UK), is an expert on sciatica. Here, he shares his medical knowledge on the condition.
“Sciatica is a debilitating condition,” Mr Liantis began. “The patient experiences pain and/or paraesthesia [tingling or prickling] in the distribution of the sciatic nerve.”
Spine-health explained the sciatic nerve “is the largest nerve in the human body”.
Formed by the union of five nerve roots from the lower spine, it extends all the way from the lower spine to the sole of the feet.
“The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or bulging lumbar
intervertebral disc,” detailed Mr Liantis.
He explained frequent “lifting while bending” can increase a person’s risk of sciatica.
“Depending on the underlying cause of the sciatica, bending the body backward or walking more than a short distance will often aggravate sciatic symptoms,” Mr Liantis explained.
This is especially true when the root cause is spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spaces within your spine.
Those with a lumbar herniated disc may encounter painful symptoms when bending the body forward.
Pressure on the nerve root causes the pain associated with the condition, so trying not to aggravate the nerve would be beneficial.
“Bed rest could provide some symptomatic relief but does not result in faster recovery and therefore is no longer recommended,” he added.
Luckily, acute sciatica tends to resolve itself within two weeks, but some people may not be as fortunate.
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There are lots of treatment options available, including “analgesics” – i.e. pain killers.
Other methods of alleviating the painful symptoms include “acupuncture, epidural steroid injections, spinal manipulation and traction therapy”.
In addition, someone may want to try “physical therapy or behavioural treatment”.
“Surgical intervention for sciatica focuses on removal of disc herniation,” Mr Liantis noted.
This option is only considered if conservative treatment methods aren’t working after eight weeks.
There are certain risk factors that make a person more prone to developing sciatica.
People between the ages of 45 to 65 are more at risk of the condition, as too are those who smoke, and people who encounter frequent exposure to vibration from vehicles.
In Mr Liantis practice, he noticed that 60 percent of patients recover from sciatica within three months.
He found that 70 percent of patients can heal from the condition within 13 months.
However, for those badly affected, up to 30 percent of patients continue to feel the pain for longer than a year.
If you suffer from sciatica for longer than two weeks, it’s highly recommended to see a professional.
Consultants, such as Mr Liantis, can offer the best treatments suited to your individual needs to reduce painful symptoms.
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