Sciatica pain is a sharp or stabbing sensation along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through each leg and down to the heel. However, symptoms vary widely depending on each leg’s spine and pelvis (sciatic notch). Sciatica symptoms range from pain to numbness, tingling, and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. Very rarely, the pain can affect the foot or ankle. Sciatica is a set of symptoms and not a specific diagnosis. If you have sciatica, you need to see a doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating sciatica in Friendswood.
Causes of Sciatica
The most common causes of sciatica are compression of the nerve roots in the lower spine, which is called “extruded” or “slipped” discs, degenerative spinal disease, and rarely tumors. Sciatica usually results when only one side of the surrounding tissue presses upon a single nerve root. A single nerve root exits between each pair of vertebrae in the lumbar spine (L1-L4) and sacral spine (S1-S4). Once that nerve is pinched or irritated, you have sciatica.
Several risk factors can predispose a person to sciatica. Some of these include:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Smoking or chewing tobacco products
Prolonged sitting, driving, standing on hard surfaces for extended periods, and wearing high heels increase pressure on the nerves around the buttocks and down the legs.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
A physical exam and medical evaluation, including diagnostic imaging (x-rays and MRI imaging), can help make the diagnosis. Your doctor may also want to rule out other conditions such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal), degenerative disc disease, and tumors.
Treatment for Sciatica
Sciatica pain treatment may include:
- A combination of rest.
- Take over-the-counter medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Prescription medications.
More severe cases can be treated with epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency denervation, which inject chemicals into the nerve root to “poison” it, or surgery.
Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), help alleviate sciatica pain. Your family physician can also prescribe more potent medicines if needed.
Surgery is an excellent option for severe pain and has not been helped by less invasive treatment. Several surgical techniques are available, but microdiscectomy and laminotomy are the most common.
Lifestyle modifications that can help with sciatica include avoiding sitting or standing in the same position for too long, which pressure the affected nerve root. Sitting on an exercise ball can help keep the lower back strong and supported. If you sit for long periods, it is recommended to take a break every 30 minutes by standing up and walking around for 5-10 minutes. Good posture while sitting is also crucial; try not to slouch or lean forward in your chair.
In summary, sciatica is a painful condition caused by sciatic nerve compression. Risk factors for sciatica include obesity, smoking, and lifting heavy objects. Diagnosis often involves a physical exam and medical evaluation. Your doctor may recommend medication, surgery, and lifestyle modifications to treat the condition.