Sciatica Q & A
What is sciatica?
Sciatica refers to a pain that travels along the pathway of your sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in your body. Your sciatic nerve runs from your lower back through your hips and buttocks, and down each of your legs, ending right below the knee.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The main symptom of sciatica is a shooting pain throughout your lower back, hips, buttocks, and down the back of your leg. In some cases, the pain can even reach your feet or toes. More specific symptoms include:
- The feeling of a jolt of electric shock in your lower back or legs
- Acute pain when sneezing or coughing
- Increased pain when sitting for long periods of time
- Tingling, numbness, or weakened muscles in the leg or foot
- A burning sensation down the leg
- Persistent pain in one side of your buttocks
The severity of the pain can vary widely, from mildly annoying to excruciating and debilitating, and it typically affects only one side of your lower body.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is not a condition in and of itself, but a symptom of some other issue. It’s estimated that in 90% of sciatica cases, a herniated (or slipped) disc is to blame.
A herniated disc occurs when one of the discs that cushions the space in between the vertebrae (or bones) in your spine is pushed out of place and compresses one of your spinal nerves.
Other causes of sciatica include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – A narrowing of the spinal cavity in your lower back
- Degenerative disc disease – The wearing-down of the discs between your vertebrae
- Spondylolisthesis – A condition where your vertebrae slip out of alignment
- Cauda equina syndrome – A condition that affects the nerves in the lower spinal cord
Additionally, pregnancy, spinal tumors, and infection can lead to a compression of your spinal nerve and sciatica pain.
Your risk of developing sciatica increases if you’re overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle where you’re sitting for long periods of time, have diabetes, or are older than 30.
How is sciatica treated?
Sciatica can sometimes be addressed with at-home care, such as stretching and over-the-counter pain medications. Other times, medical care is needed in order to alleviate the pain.
The renowned team of pain management specialists at Prism Pain Management has extensive experience treating sciatica. Depending on your lifestyle and the severity of your condition, they might recommend physical therapy, injections, or a combination of the two.
A physical therapy program can help relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve and prevent future injuries by correcting your posture, increasing your flexibility, and conditioning the muscles that support the healthy functioning of your back.
Injections of corticosteroid medication directly into the irritated nerve or in the surrounding area can significantly alleviate your pain and rehabilitate the compressed nerve by reducing inflammation.