The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body running from your pelvis, through the buttock, and down each leg to the foot. This is the spinal cord’s connection with the leg and foot muscles. Any pain that that radiates along the path of this nerve is known as sciatica. Sciatica is another term for lumbar radiculopathy. Similar to cervical radiculopathy that causes numbness, weakness and tingling in the arm, those with sciatica experience pain, tingling, weakness and/or numbness in one or both legs.
Sciatica is a symptom of the sciatic nerve being pinched somewhere in the spine. This can be caused by quite a few conditions that cause back pain including:
SYMPTOMS OF SCIATICA
Those with a pinched sciatic nerve may experience:
- Lower back pain
- Hip pain
- Pain in the leg that is typically described as burning, tingling, or searing
- Pain that worsens when sitting
- Pain that radiates down the leg and sometimes into the foot and toes
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot and/or toes
- A sharp pain that can make standing or walking difficult
Symptoms of sciatica will be different based on where the pinch is occurring along the spine and by how much the nerve is compressed. While symptoms can cause excessive pain, permanent tissue damage or spinal cord involvement is rare.
SCIATICA TREATMENT OPTIONS
It’s best to talk to a spine specialist like Dr. Jones about how to relieve your back pain and sciatica pain. In many cases, it requires treatment of the underlying cause of sciatica. In the meantime your doctor may recommend some of these approaches for relieving sciatic nerve pain:
- Heat and/or ice. Heat or ice can alleviate pain, especially during the initial phase. Applying heat or ice for 20 minutes every two hours is recommended. The two may be alternated as needed.
- Pain medications. Over-the-counter or prescription medications can be used when necessary for providing sciatica pain relief. Muscle relaxants are sometimes also prescribed for short periods of time.
- Massage therapy. Used to relax muscles and increase blood flow to the area, massage can also release release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain relievers).
- Epidural steroid injections. For more severe cases, epidural steroid injections are administered to reduce inflammation. The injection targets the affected area of the spine, which can provide more direct relief.
SURGICAL TREATMENT FOR SCIATICA
Surgery for sciatica is not always required. However, your spine surgeon may determine after reviewing images and trying other non-surgical approaches, that you can find relief by treating the primary cause of the pinched nerve. Two common surgeries in this case are:
This is a surgery used to treat lumbar spinal stenosis. Only a small portion of the bone or disc material that is pinching the nerve is removed and the rest remains intact.
When a herniated disc is the cause of sciatica, a microdiscectomy may be an option. With this surgery, a small incision is made to remove the portion of the herniated disc that is pinching the nerve. The rest of the disc is left intact.
If you have been experiencing the types of pain in your legs that we’ve described, request a consultation with Dr. Jones at his location in Pearland or in Bellaire. He can assess your back and your levels of pain to create a personalized back pain treatment plan.