Is Sciatica causing my back or leg pain?

Is Sciatica causing my back or leg pain?

Sciatica Overview

Sciatica is a term used to describe the pain and neurological symptoms that are associated with the inflammation of the sciatic nerve. These major nerves, one on each side of your lower body, are the single largest nerves in the human body. Along with their roots, these nerves extend all the way from the lower spine, through the buttocks region, and down the back side of the legs to the feet. The sciatic nerve is composed of five smaller nerves that branch out from the spinal cord and combine as one, like 5 streams joining to form one large river. This one large sciatic nerve is formed around the buttocks region on each side of the body, and then flows down the back of each leg, separating once again into smaller nerves that reach out to all regions of the lower leg and foot.

The sciatic nerve is responsible for sending nerve impulses from the brain to the hamstring muscles, influencing movement, reflexes, and sensation. Following the hamstring, the sciatic nerve branches off into two smaller nerves, one that affects sensation, movement, and reflexes on the outside of the calf and top of the foot; the other facilitating sensation, movement and reflexes in the inner calf and ankle.

Needless to say, the sciatic nerve covers a lot of ground in the body and is responsible for a great deal of the movement and sensation in the lower body. With such a large span and surface area, it leaves many opportunities for the nerve to become pinched or injured. Any disruption to the sciatic roots or the main nerve itself can result in symptoms ranging from minor localized pain to debilitating, radiating pain and numbness. This incapacitating pain can significantly affect daily life and exclude one from participating in their regular activities such as work, hobbies, or even walking the dog.

Fortunately, sciatica, also known as sciatic nerve pain, is often easily diagnosed and can typically be treated with a variety of minimally invasive options. The first step to relief lies in identifying whether the sciatic nerve is the root of your problem. The Advanced Spine Center is here to guide you through that process.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Our legs and feet are our foundation, and when these get disrupted, our whole world can be thrown off balance. The sciatic nerve plays a large role in this foundation, and when the nerve is irritated or pinched, it can lead to excruciating pain and disruptions in one’s daily life. So, what can one look for to pinpoint if the problems they are experiencing are linked to the sciatic nerve? Below are just some of the symptoms that one might experience if the sciatic nerve is pinched or injured:

  • Localized pain at the point of pinching or injury, often in the hip or buttocks area
  • Radiating pain that typically shoots down one leg, originating from the point of the pinching
  • Tingling, numbness, or a pins-and-needles sensation down one of the legs
  • Weakness in the leg muscles, causing difficulty in walking and possibly leading to falls
  • Searing pain associated with certain movements, such as shifting from sitting to standing
  • In emergency cases, loss of bowel or bladder control can occur. Please seek medical attention

Here at Advanced Spine, our board-certified physicians have years of experience in the field of spine care. Doctors Gatto, Lowenstein, and Naseef have all been recognized as Top Doctors, and specialize in the conservative treatment of the conditions that can lead to sciatic pinching and pain. Together with you, they will work one-on-one to find the source of your discomfort, chart a treatment plan that will address your personal needs, and implement the treatments and therapies that will be the best fit for you.

 Causes of Sciatica

The Harvard Medical School reports that nearly 40% of individuals will experience some degree of sciatic pain in their lifetime; the occurrence of such cases only increases with age. This is often attributed to the size of the nerve system and the location of the nerves that compose this system. Many of the nerves in the sciatic system are found between vertebrae and other structures such as ligaments and muscles. Because of this proximity to other structures, one of the main sources of sciatic pain is a pinching of the sciatic nerve or any of its roots. This pinching can be caused by a variety of factors, including: injury, bulging or herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease or arthritis, spondylolisthesis, spinal tumors, pregnancy, obesity, or lack of exercise and movement. Even the type of mattress you sleep on can irritate the sciatic nerve.

Not sure what some of these terms or conditions mean? Full descriptions can be found here on our website under the “Conditions” heading, or contact us today to get your questions answered. The good news is that for most, sciatic pain can be managed, treated, and improved significantly or completely disappear over time.

Sciatica Treatment Options

Pain Medication

Oral medications, both over-the counter and prescription, are often an integral part of recovering from sciatica pain. Medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen may be suggested, whereas oral steroids may work best for others.

Injections

A common form of treatment for sciatica, spinal injections target the pain at its source. Administered in intervals, your physician will inject a cortisol steroid directly into the location of irritation. This will help to reduce inflammation, pain, and immobility.

A microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgical solution that uses a microscope to visualize, remove, or repair a lumbar herniated disc. Removing a ruptured disc relieves sciatic nerve pain and neurological symptoms by decompressing the pinched sciatic nerve.

A laminectomy is a common form of surgical correction for sciatica that results from spinal stenosis. During this procedure, your surgeon will remove a portion of the lamina (the vertebral sheath that protects the spinal cord) to decompress pinched nerve tissue.

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