Sciatica is a term that describes the symptoms of leg pain caused by the sciatic nerve, and is a type of pain experienced when your sciatic nerve is affected by another underlying condition of the spine. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body, running from your back down each of your legs and to your feet. Compression of the nerve root caused from a spinal condition can result in sciatic nerve pain, or radiating pain in the back and/or legs that typically occurs on one side of your body and can spread down to your foot.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE SCIATICA?
Pain is the primary symptom of sciatica, though the location and type of pain varies depending on the overlying condition you are suffering from. Some people experience a dull ache in their lower back, while others have radiating pain through the buttocks and typically down one leg. Other types of pain include a sharp pain, pain that is described as electrical-feeling, or moderate leg cramping. Typically, the pain is more severe during certain movements, after coughing or sneezing, or while sitting still or standing for longer periods of time. Other symptoms include tingling or burning in the legs, muscle weakness and numbness.
The six most common spinal conditions that can cause sciatica are a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, sacroiliac joint dysfunction and piriformis syndrome.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT TREATMENT FOR ME?
The earlier you visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment of sciatica, the better your results will be. Finding the source of the sciatic nerve pain is usually the first step in determining the proper treatment, as treating the underlying condition often resolves the pain. Conservative and non-surgical treatments such as pain medications, physical therapy or anti-inflammatory injections are typically successful for sciatica, but when these treatments do not eliminate your pain, surgery is often required.
Surgery is reserved for patients whose sciatica has caused three months or more of intense nerve pain or lack of mobility in the legs. The most typical surgical procedures for sciatic nerve pain based on condition type are a laminoforaminotomy or microdiscectomy. Both of these procedures are outpatient and minimally invasive, which means your pain is eliminated through a small incision, roughly 2 centimeters in length, to minimize risks.