According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, eight out of 10 people have some type of backache. Back pain does not discriminate, and men, women and even children can find themselves dealing with the unfortunate and uncomfortable side effects of a hurt back.
Sciatica is one type of back pain that many men, particularly those who drive a vehicle or carry heavy loads for a living, deal with on a regular basis. Though a symptom and not a disorder, sciatica causes pain that can be quite uncomfortable. But as painful and as prevalent as sciatica can be, and some estimates suggest it affects as much as 10 percent of the population, many men don’t know much about sciatica, which makes it harder to affectively address the situation should it suddenly appear.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is pain caused by pressure on or damage to the sciatic nerve, a nerve that starts in the lower back and runs down the back of each leg. The pain that results from sciatica can occur anywhere from the lower back down to the sole of the foot. Sciatica can also affect the muscle power in the legs.
What causes sciatica?
It’s not always easy to pinpoint the specific cause of sciatica, but there are many conditions that can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and result in sciatica. Some of those causes include:
• Herniated disk: A herniated disk in the lower back can compress a nerve root in the lower back and cause sciatica. Disks are pads of cartilage that separate the vertebrae in the spine, and gel can seep out and press on a nerve root, causing pain in either the back or leg, or even both.
• Spondylolisthesis: This occurs when one of the spine’s vertebra slips forward over another vertebra. This typically happens as a result of degenerative disk disease, and the displaced bone can pinch the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica.
* Spinal tumors: Tumors that develop within the spinal cord, membranes that cover the spinal cord or in the space between the spinal cord and the vertebrae can grow and compress the nerves, including the sciatic nerve, or even the spinal cord itself.
• Trauma: Any trauma to the spine, which can occur after a car accident or a fall, can injure the sciatic nerve and result in sciatica.
Are there risk factors for sciatica?
Certain things do increase the risk for sciatica. As mentioned above, sciatica can affect anyone. Men who perform physical labor as part of their occupations, however, might be most at risk. That’s because a job that requires workers to twist their backs or carry heavy loads, jobs that are most often filled by men, is one of the risk factors for developing sciatica.
Another risk factor is age. Spinal stenosis, which puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, occurs as people age and increases the risk for sciatica.
Men who live a sedentary lifestyle are also at increased risk for sciatica. That’s because sitting for long periods of time can increase pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Diabetes increases the risk of nerve damage, and as a result diabetics might be at greater risk of developing sciatica than those without diabetes.
Are there complications from sciatica?
Many people who experience sciatica fully recover. However, some people experience permanent nerve damage as well as additional complications, including:
• Loss of feeling in the affected leg
* Loss of movement in the affected leg
• Loss of bowel or bladder function
Coping with back pain is seldom easy. However, by learning about certain types of back pain, including sciatica, men can put themselves in a better position to identify the source of their pain and deal with it more effectively.