Can Sciatica Cause Leg Pain?

If you’re dealing with shooting, burning, or radiating leg pain, you could have sciatica. Sciatica is leg pain that’s caused by a pinched or irritated nerve. A herniated disc that compresses the sciatic nerve is the most common cause of sciatica.

When you’re experiencing unexplained shooting leg pain, rely on board-certified spine specialist Thomas Jones II, MD, and his team at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas to get to the root of your discomfort. Dr. Jones diagnoses and treats a full range of conditions that affect the spine, including sciatica.

Leg pain and your sciatic nerve

The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body. It starts at the base of the spine in the lower back and travels down each buttock and down the back of each leg. The sciatic nerve supplies motor function to the thighs, legs, and feet, and usually goes unnoticed until problems like shooting leg pain arise.

Sciatica pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a burning sensation or radiating pain. Sometimes it may feel like an electric shock or strong jolt that shoots down your leg. For some people the pain is constant, while for others it comes and goes. 

What causes sciatica?

 Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Between each pair of moveable vertebrae are discs that act as cushions and shock absorbers. Other parts make up your spine, such as the spinal cord and nerve roots. The spinal cord travels down a hollow tube called the spinal canal. Most people with sciatica have some age-related changes in their spines.

Narrowing of the spinal canal is one common cause of sciatica. Bony growths called bone spurs can develop and press on spinal nerves. And as you age, your intervertebral discs may dry out, leading to herniation of the discs.

Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, and having a job where you sit for prolonged periods. 

A comprehensive evaluation will help Dr. Jones determine the cause of your sciatica. 

Treatments for sciatica

While sciatica can be very painful, it is treatable. Patients who visit us at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas receive a careful examination as part of a diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause of your sciatica problem.

Nonsurgical strategies, like medication, physical therapy, and self-care approaches, are the first step in healing sciatica. If these aren’t successful, surgery is an option.

Self-care

Rest, ice or heat, and gentle stretches are self-care measures you can take to improve sciatica. This helps to reduce inflammation and decrease your pain. Warm showers can help relax the muscles of your low back and ease the tension.

While it’s important to remain active when you have sciatica, a short period of bed rest when you have a flare-up is helpful. Easing up on activity for a day or two can help your body recover.

You may need to temporarily adjust your daily routine so that you can take it easy for a couple of days. 

Medication

If your pain fails to improve with self-care measures, Dr. Jones may recommend drug therapy to manage your leg pain. Various medications are used to reduce the symptoms of sciatica. 

These include:

Drug therapy isn’t meant as a long-term solution. The goal is to manage your low back and leg pain while your body heals and recovers. 

Physical therapy

Managing sciatica often requires a multidisciplinary approach. Dr. Jones may refer you to a physical therapist as part of your sciatica treatment plan. Physical therapy can help reduce inflammation, improve function, and prevent sciatica flare-ups. 

Surgery for sciatica

Surgical approaches to sciatica are considered when conservative measures fail to provide adequate relief or when Dr. Jones determines it’s the best option for treating your sciatica. Surgery, when appropriate, effectively relieves the pressure on your sciatic nerve to provide pain relief. Newer techniques are minimally invasive and address the cause of the compression. 

If you’re dealing with sciatica-associated leg or low back pain you can do something about it. Dr. Jones has all the tools necessary to help tame sciatica pain and lower the frequency of flare-ups. 

To get started with an in-office or telemedicine visit, schedule your appointment by clicking here, or call one of our offices in Pearland, Houston, or Lake Jackson, Texas. We’re standing by to help you get the care you need. 

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