What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve runs from the spine and buttocks through the hips and down each leg. When this nerve is compressed the condition is referred to as Sciatica. Sciatica is often the result of a herniated disc, bone spur, or other abnormality. Sciatica is also most commonly only found to be affecting one side of the body. Pain can be severe but most cases are resolved within a few weeks via conservative remedies.

What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Symptoms may include:

  • pain radiating from the lower back (lumbar)
  • pain anywhere along the nerve pathway down the leg
  • some numbness or tingling in the affected leg has been reported
  • pain when sitting for long periods
  • sharp pain when standing upright from the seated position

What Causes Sciatica?

Most commonly Sciatica is caused by a compression of the nerve from a herniated disc or bone spur however in rare cases the compression can be caused by the growth of a tumor or damage from a disease such as diabetes.

Should I See a Doctor for Sciatica?

Patients who show little symptoms or only have minor pain may not need to seek medical treatment. Home remedies such as ice packs, heating pads, stretching, and over the counter pain medications may relieve symptoms while the body heals.

If pain does not subside an appointment should be made with a healthcare professional.

Diagnosing Sciatica

The initial physical exam will include a number of tests to measure your muscle strength and reflexes. Tests include walking on the toes or standing up from the seated position. If the pain persists for more than a few weeks a doctor may order imaging tests.

Imaging tests include X-Rays, MRIs and CT scans.

  • An x-ray of the spine may reveal a bone spur pressing on the nerve.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces cross-sectional images of the spine and discs.
  • A computerized tomography scan (CT scan) is often combined with a dye that is injected into the spinal cavity and allows for the spinal cavity to be seen with greater detail.

Treatment From a Healthcare Professional

Home remedies such as ice packs, heating pads, stretching, and over the counter pain medications should be the first course of treatment. If pain persists your healthcare professional may recommend more aggressive treatment such as prescription drugs, physical therapy, steroid injections, or in extreme cases surgery.

Prescription Drugs

  • Narcotics
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Anti-seizure medications

Physical Therapy

  • Physical therapy may be recommended to address issues of posture, strengthen muscles and relieve the body of strain in the area.

Steroid Injections

  • A doctor may also recommend a corticosteroid injection into the area around the inflamed nerve. These injections can reduce pain by reducing inflammation in the area but only last a few months and carry with them an increased risk of side effects.

Surgery

  • The most extreme cases of Sciatica in which a person suffers from significant weaknesses or loss of control of the bowels may be addressed with surgery.
  • In these cases a surgeon will generally remove the bone spur or portion of the herniated disc which is pressing on the nerve.

Ways to Alleviate Pain From Sciatica

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may be taken to reduce inflammation and pain over the counter. Home remedies such as ice packs, heating pads, and stretching have also been shown to reduce discomfort.

Places to Get Help

Get excellent bone and joint treatment from the top doctors at OrthoArizona – Arizona Orthopaedic Associates.