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Best Physical Therapy's Health Information Library

Here, we have gathered health articles on almost every major subject in healthcare. Please explore, enjoy, and share this free resource provided by Best Physical Therapy

Sciatica

Sciatica is a symptom of a problem with the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. It controls muscles in the back of your knee and lower leg and provides feeling to the back of your thigh, part of your lower leg, and the sole of your foot. When you have sciatica, you have pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling. It can start in the lower back and extend down your leg to your calf, foot, or even your toes. It's usually on only one side of your body.

Causes of sciatica include

  • A ruptured intervertebral disk
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerve, called spinal stenosis
  • An injury such as a pelvic fracture.

In many cases no cause can be found.

Sometimes sciatica goes away on its own. Treatment, if needed, depends on the cause of the problem. It may include exercises, medicines, and surgery.

Herniated Disk

Your backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between them are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. As you age, the disks break down or degenerate. As they do, they lose their cushioning ability. This can lead to pain if the back is stressed.

A herniated disk is a disk that ruptures. This allows the jelly-like center of the disk to leak, irritating the nearby nerves. This can cause sciatica or back pain.

Your doctor will diagnose a herniated disk with a physical exam and, sometimes, imaging tests. With treatment, most people recover. Treatments include rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Back Pain

If you've ever groaned, "Oh, my aching back!", you are not alone. Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts for more than three months.

Most back pain goes away on its own, though it may take awhile. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting can help. However, staying in bed for more than 1 or 2 days can make it worse.

If your back pain is severe or doesn't improve after three days, you should call your health care provider. You should also get medical attention if you have back pain following an injury.

Treatment for back pain depends on what kind of pain you have, and what is causing it. It may include hot or cold packs, exercise, medicines, injections, complementary treatments, and sometimes surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Peripheral Nerve Disorders

Your peripheral nerves are the ones outside your brain and spinal cord. Like static on a telephone line, peripheral nerve disorders distort or interrupt the messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

There are more than 100 kinds of peripheral nerve disorders. They can affect one nerve or many nerves. Some are the result of other diseases, like diabetic nerve problems. Others, like Guillain-Barre syndrome, happen after a virus infection. Still others are from nerve compression, like carpal tunnel syndrome or thoracic outlet syndrome. In some cases, like complex regional pain syndrome and brachial plexus injuries, the problem begins after an injury. Some people are born with peripheral nerve disorders.

Symptoms often start gradually, and then get worse. They include

  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Burning or tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensitivity to touch

Treatment aims to treat any underlying problem, reduce pain and control symptoms.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke