The sciatic nerve stretches from the lower back, through each hip and buttock, and down each leg. Sciatica is a type of radiculopathy, which refers to a group of symptoms that occur when a nerve root is pinched in the spinal column. Sciatica usually occurs when a herniated disc, bone spur, or spinal stenosis presses against a nerve root. It usually only affects one side of the body.
- Radiating pain from the lower back, through the buttocks, down the back of the leg
- Pain can be a mild ache or a sharp, burning sensation
- Pain that worsens when you cough or sneeze
- Pain that worsens when you sit for long periods of time
- Radiculopathy in the affected leg or foot
- Muscle weakness
- Radiating pain
Your doctor will ask you a variety of questions to obtain a detailed family and personal medical history. They will do a physical exam to evaluate your symptoms and check for pain, muscle strength, and reflexes.
Mild sciatica is treated with a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, as it tends to go away over time with the proper self-care measures. Your doctor will tell you to exercise regularly, maintain proper posture when you sit, and use good body mechanics.
If your pain persists, your doctor may recommend NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen. Other prescription medications include muscle relaxants, tricyclic antidepressants, and antiseizure medications.
In some cases, you may qualify for a steroid injection. Corticosteroids are injected into the nerve root to reduce inflammation. They only last for a few months, so this is only a temporary fix.
Whether the sciatica pain is mild, moderate, or severe, physical therapy is beneficial in preventing the condition from worsening. It will consist of exercises to correct posture, gait (manner of walking), and flexibility, as well as strengthening the muscles in the back.
In severe sciatica, nerve root compression may cause significant weakness in the lower back and legs, leading to a loss of bowel or bladder control. If this occurs, and/or if the pain progressively worsens or doesn’t improve with other therapies, you may qualify for surgery.
Surgery typically involves a laminotomy or laminectomy to treat the herniated disc that is causing the sciatic pressure. If it is due to a bone spur, a bone spur repair will be performed.
For a comprehensive evaluation from the experts at Brain2Spine Institute, call 727-828-8400.