What is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve in the spine runs from the lower back through the hips and buttocks, and down each leg. Pain associated with this nerve is called sciatica. Sciatica pain radiates through the sciatic region, and usually affects only one side of the body.
Causes of Sciatica
Most cases of sciatica are caused when a bone spur, herniated disc, or muscle spasm, compresses part of the nerve. Other causes of sciatica include:
- A tumor compressing the sciatic nerve
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward and partially covers another vertebra)
- Pregnancy-induced pressure on the sciatic nerve
Being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that’s too hard or too soft can make sciatic pain worse.
The main symptom of sciatica is pain in the lower back region ranging from severe and constant to mild and infrequent. In addition to generalized lower back pain that seems to radiate to surrounding areas of the body, other sciatica symptoms include:
- Pain in the buttocks or leg that becomes worse when you sit down
- Constant pain on one side of the buttocks
- Hip pain
- A burning/tingling sensation down one leg
- Leg or foot weakness or numbness
- Intense shooting pain that makes standing difficult
TREATING SCIATICA PAIN
In milder cases of sciatica, the condition often resolves on its own within a few weeks. In these cases, your doctor may recommend taking steps at home to achieve sciatica pain relief. These at-home remedies might include:
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Taking limited bed rest
- Massaging the lower back
- Heat and cold therapy – Ice or a cold pack reduces inflammation and numbs sore tissues; a heating pad stimulates the skin’s sensory receptors, which shifts the brain’s focus away from pain and dilates blood vessels, which boosts healing. Your spine doctor can recommend when, how often, and how long to apply heat and/or cold therapy.
- Practicing stretching and strengthening exercises recommended by your pain doctor or physical therapist.
When at-home sciatica treatments don’t provide pain relief, your doctor may recommend in-office procedures including injections and/or one or more of the following pain treatment procedures:
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Microdosing & Pain Pumps
Surgery for Sciatica
For persistent, recurring, or debilitating sciatica, your spine doctor may recommend surgery. Discectomy surgery is conducted to remove an object or part of an object that is pressing on the sciatic nerve (usually a bone spur or herniated disc.) Laminectomy surgery involves removing part of a ring of bone that covers the spinal cord. Surgery for sciatic pain relief is usually used as a last resort. Fewer than 10% of patients diagnosed with sciatica require surgery.