Sciatica is a relatively common form of leg pain that is misunderstood
by many people. This condition is so widespread that there is a common
misconception that it can be self-treated or treated with just pain medication.
Sciatica is a term that means the sciatic nerve is being compressed by
another spinal structure resulting in pain in the low back, on one side
of the buttocks and down the back of the leg.
- Lumbar disc herniation – where the inner core of a spinal disc in
the lower back bulges and places pressure on the sciatic nerve root.
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease – when weakened discs in the lower
back allow excess motion in the spine and cause irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Isthmic spondylolisthesis – where one vertebral body slips over another and pinches a nerve root.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower
back pinches nerve roots.
Piriformis syndrome – when the piriformis muscle (a small muscle that lies deep in the
buttocks) becomes tight or spasms, which can put pressure on sciatic nerve.
The symptoms of sciatica can vary from patient to patient but most commonly include:
- Pain that can radiate from the low back, down the back of each leg and
sometimes into the feet and toes.
- Tingling or burning/pins & needle feeling on one side of the body.
As with any back condition, a complete medical history needs to be done
and a review of your symptoms needs to be evaluated. A physical examination
will also be done in order to provide your doctor will crucial information
and assist in the correct diagnosis.
Diagnostics tests such as X-rays, and MRI or Nerve conduction studies may
also be ordered depending on what your doctor finds during your physical
exam. These tests are helpful in pinpointing the cause of the sciatica
and ruling out other conditions.