What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a term used to describe pain that occurs along the sciatic nerve. This is a major nerve that starts in the low back and runs down through the hips, buttocks and legs.
What are the causes of sciatica?
Sciatica occurs when the nerve is impinged (pinched). The impingement is typically due to:
- A bone spur that has formed and presses on the nerve
- Disc herniation, where the soft center of a spinal disc leaks out of the tough exterior and places pressure on the nearby nerve
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal
In rare cases, sciatica can be caused by a tumor pressing on the nerve or nerve damage from another condition, such as diabetes.
What are the symptoms?
The pain from sciatica can vary from a mild ache to excruciating pain that can even feel like an electric shock. The pain can be made worse through sudden jolts of movement, such as coughing or sneezing, and is typically found on only one side of the body. In some cases, muscle weakness, tingling or numbness may also be found in the affected foot or leg.
How would someone find relief from sciatic pain?
If self-care measures—such as cold/hot packs, stretching and over-the-counter pain relievers—should fail, a physician may recommend a variety of treatment options.
Sciatic pain can be treated with prescription medications including:
- Anti-seizure medications
- Certain antidepressants
- Muscle relaxants
Corticosteroids can be injected into the area around the irritated nerve to relieve inflammation. However, the injections only last for a few months, and the number of shots a patient can receive is limited due to the risk of serious side effects.
Patients may be referred to a physical therapist for techniques that can help to prevent future injury. This can include exercises to strengthen supporting muscles in the back, improve flexibility and correct posture.
Surgery may be recommended when all other treatment modalities have failed to provide relief or if the nerve impingement has resulted in a loss of bladder/bowel control or significant weakness. Surgeons would be able to remove a bone spur or repair / replace the spinal disc that is applying pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The Leaders in Advanced Spine Treatment
At IGEA Brain, Spine & Orthopedics our specialists are extensively trained in effectively treating sciatica and other spine disorders. Our experts utilize advanced techniques as part of their commitment to superior care for patients living with brain, spine and neurovascular conditions.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.