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.
Because sciatica differs from patient to patient, it must be treated on an individualized basis. There are many conditions which can cause sciatica and the treatment for one patient may not work for another. A combination of treatments is often the most effective and may begin with conservative treatment such as:
- Physical therapy
- Alternating heat and ice therapy
- Over the counter pain medications
- Possible epidural steroid injections
- Anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.)
The fact of the matter is, sciatica can last much longer for one patient than it does for another depending on the cause. Depending on the diagnosis and underlying condition that is causing sciatica, surgery may be a better treatment option for some patients. The appropriate surgical procedure will depend on the underlying condition and our experts at SCCNS will evaluate the benefits of any type of surgery with each patient in order to allow them to be part of the treatment process and be able to make an informed decision about their treatment options. We are at the forefront of the most minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat sciatica and the underlying conditions. And we will work with you to formulate the best treatment plan available.