Both neuralgia and sciatica (a form of neuralgia) affect people in their nerves, leading to chronic pain that can be very difficult to treat. Neuralgia is more commonly found in older people; however, anyone can suffer from both neuralgia and sciatica, sometimes in an ongoing battle where it comes and goes.
Neuralgia can be caused by a number of things including drugs, illness such as diabetes or infections like shingles when the nerve endings are put under pressure. Often, the cause is difficult to pinpoint. Neuralgia can either be central or peripheral and there are several types including trigeminal neuralgia, dental neuralgia, occipital neuralgia or postherpetic neuralgia. Sciatica is also a type of neuralgia that affects the nerve that runs from your spine, through your pelvis, down your leg and to your foot (the sciatic nerve).
Sciatica can be caused by overusing the leg, which impacts this particular nerve. It can also be caused by pressure on the pelvis, which affects the nerve endings of the sciatic nerve. This could come from a slipped disk, problems with the piriformis, tumours or pelvis injuries. Neuralgia and sciatica are thus both associated with damage to the nerves or the sciatic nerve respectively.
Because of the effect that neuralgia and sciatica have on the nerves the symptoms can vary. Those affected by neuralgia may feel muscle weakness or some sensitivity on parts of their skin while those affected by sciatica will feel a more localized pain along their sciatic nerve from their hip joints to knee joints to ankle joints, normally only on one side. Or they will feel the same symptoms as neuralgia – muscle weakness or sensitivity – but just along their leg. However the common symptom of neuralgia and sciatica is pain, which can be incredibly crippling. Pain may be constant or sharp and sudden.
Treatment for both neuralgia and sciatica is difficult as there are no tests to determine that the symptoms a person is experiencing are indeed neuralgia as they are similar to symptoms such as multiple sclerosis.
However pain relief is on the top of the lists for treatment for both neuralgia and sciatica because the pain for both can be so severe. Pain relief medication can range from antidepressants to over the counter painkillers or injections. For neuralgia, treatment will include trying to target the cause of the nerve damage whether it is diabetes or a tumour or shingles which is affecting the nerves. It is also often difficult to control pain because the nerves don’t react typically to painkillers in cases of neuralgia and sciatica.
For both neuralgia and sciatica, the symptoms may go away on their own, otherwise surgery can be considered for both if the pain continues over a long period. Surgery can help relieve the cause of the pain and nerve damage. In the case of sciatica, physical therapy is also an option where the legs, through which the sciatic nerve runs, can be stretched and flexed. The area which is sore can also be isolated by putting ice or heat on it.
Because of the nature of which neuralgia and sciatica come about, they are more commonly regarded as a symptom from a cause, than an actual isolated condition as something has caused the damage to the nerves which has resulted in the nerve pain. However both are very real and painful experiences to which there is often no quick fix and can lead to tender areas all over your body from back pain to muscle weakness. Those who experience this should consult their physicians as soon as possible.