Sciatica in the Elderly
Sciatica is a very common type of pain that many seniors feel. It is often described as a burning sensation that spans from the lower back down the back of one or both legs. The pain can begin in the lower back and extend through the legs, or affect any of the areas between the back and legs. It is caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve in the back and affects millions of people worldwide. Seniors are greatly affected by sciatica pain because of their age.
As people age, their nerves and muscles begin to slowly degenerate. The older you get, the more your muscles and nerves can degrade. Overtime, this can cause pain to occur and muscle weakness. For seniors who are overweight, the risk for developing sciatica is even greater. If you believe that you may be at risk for developing sciatica, or if you would simply like to learn more about the disorder, then keeping reading for the symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment of sciatica.
Symptoms of Sciatica
The main symptom of sciatica is pain. People who have the disorder complain of pain that radiates down their back and the back of their legs. Also, they can feel pain in their upper thighs whenever they sit down. Burning and tingling in your legs is also common, along with weakness and numbing in your lower extremities. Some people with more advanced sciatica complain about being unable to move their feet and lower legs.
Sciatica can affect both sides of your body, but most commonly, it will only affect one side. The pain most commonly extends from the lower back to the upper legs, but can also reach down to the toes of your feet. The pain can range from being very slight and annoying to extremely severe. For some people, the pain of sciatica can be debilitating and can prevent them from walking freely and sitting in certain positions.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica is often caused by both inflammation and irritation of the sciatic nerve. Nerve endings have the ability to get inflamed just like any other part of your body does and the inflammation can send shooting pain down the nerve. You can also experience sciatica due to irritation of the nerve roots of your lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. Sciatica can also be caused by various diseases or medical states such as spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or during pregnancy.
Other factors that may make sciatica worse if you already are suffering from it include being overweighed, not exercising, or sleeping on an improper mattress or couch.
Risk Factors of Sciatica
Many risk factors for sciatica are uncontrollable, however there are a few that you can control so that you can reduce your risk of developing the disorder.
Some of the uncontrollable risk factors include:
1. Age: People over the age of 50 have an increased risk of sciatica due to their bones, nerves and muscles degenerating. As people age, their bodies begin to break down and your nerves could become inflamed which could lead to sciatica.
2. Diabetes: Diabetes is a disease that affects your entire body. If you do not keep your blood sugar in check then you could have widespread symptoms that affect your nerves and your organs. People with diabetes have a higher risk of nerve damage and nerve irritation. If you have diabetes then you are automatically at a higher risk for developing sciatica and other nerve disorders.
3. Genetics: Many spinal disorders can cause sciatica as a symptom, and many spinal disorders are genetic. While sciatica is not genetic, some of the spinal disorders that cause sciatica are genetic. For example, degenerative disc disorder and spinal stenosis are both genetic conditions that can cause sciatica. Therefore if spinal conditions run in your family, then you may be at a higher risk for developing sciatica.
Some of the controllable risk factors include:
1. Physical Activity: Both sedentary and highly active lifestyles can lead to sciatica. People who are sedentary have a greater risk of sciatica. People who are highly active and do heavy lifting activities are also at risk for developing sciatica because they are putting themselves at a higher risk for back injury.
2. Weight: The more overweight a person is, the more at risk they are for developing sciatica. Extra weight can push on your spine and cause it to compress slightly. As your spine compresses, it can hit your nerves and cause irritation. Over time, you can develop sciatica due to the extra weight you carry.
3. Menopause: Menopause can easily lead to bone loss, which can then lead to nerve damage and nerve irritation. If you have gone through menopause, then it is important that you talk to your doctor about bone loss. You may need to start taking calcium or vitamin D supplements to keep your bones healthy and your risk of sciatica low.
Treatment of Sciatica
Sciatica can come on suddenly or can progress. If you are dealing with sciatica, then you first need a diagnosis from your doctor. Your doctor can run tests to determine if your back pain is due to nerve pain or due to another issue. If you are diagnosed with sciatica then you may be given pain medications and anti-inflammatories to reduce the pain in your back and legs. If you have lost function in your feet or legs due to sciatica, then you also may be prescribed rehabilitation to regain your function.
Sciatica is a painful disorder that affects many seniors worldwide. It can cause searing and burning pain down your back and legs and can be very debilitating. If you suffer from sciatica or are worried about your risk, then talk with your doctor. They can give you treatment options and ways to reduce your risks so that you can live a pain free life.
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