Definition of Sciatica:
The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness that originates in the low back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.
The vast majority of people who experience sciatica get better with time (usually a few weeks or months) and find pain relief with non-surgical sciatica treatment. For others, however, sciatic nerve pain can be severe and debilitating.
Sciatica is often characterized by the following symptoms:
- Pain on one side of the buttock or in one 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 sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
What are the causes of Sciatica Symptoms?
The main cause of sciatica is generally a result of a disc herniation directly pressing on the nerve. However any cause of irritation or inflammation of this nerve can reproduce the symptoms of sciatica. These causes include irritation of the nerve from adjacent bone, tumors, muscle, internal bleeding, infections, injury, and many others.
For some people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating. For others, the pain might be infrequent and irritating, but has the potential to get worse.
While sciatica can be very painful, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) will result. Most sciatica symptoms result from inflammation and will get better within two weeks to a few months. Also, 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.
While relatively rare, two sciatica-related symptoms that warrant prompt medical attention and possibly emergency surgery, include: progressive weakness in the leg, and either bladder or bowel incontinence or dysfunction. Patients with either of these symptoms may have cauda equina syndromeand should seek immediate medical attention.
What are the treatment options available?
Sciatica nerve pain is caused by a combination of pressure and inflammation on the nerve root, and treatment is centered on relieving both of these factors.Typical sciatica treatment include:
- Non-surgical sciatica treatments, which may include one or a combination of medical treatments and alternative (non-medical) treatments, and almost always includes some form of back exercises and stretching. The goals of non-surgical sciatica treatment, such as sciatica exercises, should include both relief of sciatica pain and prevention of future sciatica pain.
- Sciatica surgery, such as microdiscectomy or lumbar laminectomyand discectomy, to remove the portion of the disc that is irritating the nerve root. This surgery is designed to help relieve both the pressure and inflammation and may be warranted if the sciatic nerve pain is severe and has not been relieved with appropriate manual or medical treatments.