What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, a long nerve that extends from the lower back, down the buttocks, and into each leg. Sciatica often occurs due to the nerve’s compression, which commonly results from spine arthritis, herniated discs, and spinal stenosis. Reported pain levels for sciatica range from mild to severe and can be managed through a variety of treatment options.
The most commonly reported sciatica symptom is pain that radiates from the lower back down to the legs, usually affecting only one of them. Sciatica’s pain levels can vary significantly, all the way from mild to severe, and can be aggravated by sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time. Other symptoms include:
- Lower back pain
- Tingling, numbness & burning down the legs
- Pain that increases with movement
- Muscle weakness
- Pins & needles sensation in feet
- Incontinence & problems controlling bowels
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica is commonly the result of compressed or pinched nerves, more specifically, the sciatic nerve. Certain conditions such as an overgrown bone, a herniated disk, or narrowed spinal cord can cause sciatica. Risk factors such as age, diabetes, and physical labor can increase the chances of developing sciatica. Other causes include:
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis:
Lumbar spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which can cause the sciatic nerve to become compressed, leading to pain.
Organs shift around the body to make space for the growing fetus. This shift, in addition to natural weight gain, can put pressure on the spinal cord.
Degenerative Disc Disease:
As we age, the discs that cushion our vertebrae and prevent them from rubbing against each other become worn down and impact nearby nerves.
Conditions and diseases that cause inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause compression on the nerves.
Excessive weight places an immense amount of pressure on our spinal columns, increasing compression of our vertebrae and exacerbating the risk of developing sciatica.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Sciatica
The first step of any diagnosis is to perform a thorough physical examination and diligently review your symptoms, family, and medical history. Your physician may order a series of tests such as blood work, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and electromyography to rule out other possibilities. Once a successful diagnosis has been reached, one or various forms of treatment may be recommended. For milder cases, lifestyle changes and regular exercise may decrease pain levels or solve the issue altogether. For more severe cases, more robust treatments may be suggested. Treatments such as:
- Over the counter medication
- Prescription medication
- Physical therapy
- Epidural steroid injections
- Piriformis nerve blocks
- Transforaminal steroid injections
- Spinal cord stimulation
If you or someone you know is suffering from sciatica symptoms, we encourage you to reach out to our interventional pain specialists. There is no need to suffer in silence. Our team of experts is happy to discuss your symptoms, address your concerns, and assist in finding the best treatment option for you.