The term Sciatica is used to describe pain that radiates down the course of the sciatic nerve, which starts from each side of the lower back, extends down the back of the thigh, and into the foot. This type of pain caused by compression of nerve roots in the lower part of the spine, which merge to form the sciatic nerve in the pelvis. Pain may result from a variety of conditions, including disc problems. The good news, however, is that cases of sciatica are not serious and will get better within a few days or weeks.
Sciatica is usually caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve from a herniated disc (also referred to as a ruptured disc, pinched nerve, slipped disc, etc.) the problem is often diagnosed as a “radiculopathy”, meaning that a disc has protruded from its normal position in the vertebral column and is putting pressure on the radicular nerve (nerve root), which connects with the sciatic nerve.
Understanding Sciatica Pain
For some people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating. For others, the pain from sciatica might be infrequent and irritating but has the potential to get worse. Usually, sciatica only affects one side of the lower body and the pain often radiates from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also radiate to the foot or toes.
- Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting.
- Burning or tingling down the leg.
- Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot.
- A constant pain on one side of the rear.
- A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up.
While sciatica can be very painful, it is rare that permanent nerve damage (tissue damage) will result. Most sciatica pain syndromes result from inflammation and will get better within two weeks to a few months. In addition, because the spinal cord is not present in the lower (lumbar) spine, a herniated disc in this area of the anatomy does not present a danger of paralysis.
The most common cause is a lumbar herniated disc. Other common causes of sciatica include lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or isthmic spondylolisthesis.
Nerve pain is caused by a combination of pressure and inflammation on the nerve root, and treatment is centred on relieving both of these factors. Typical sciatica treatments include :
- Manual treatments for sciatica (including physical therapy and osteopathic or chiropractic treatments) to help relieve the pressure.
- Medical treatments for sciatica (such as painkillers, oral steroids, or epidural steroid injections) to help relieve the inflammation.
- Surgery for sciatica (such as micro discectomy or lumbar laminectomy ) to help relieve both the pressure and inflammation may be warranted if the sciatic nerve pain is severe and has not been relieved with appropriate manual and medical treatments.