Did you know that as many as 40% of adults will experience sciatica at some point in their life? This troublesome condition can be difficult to navigate, but knowing the causes, symptoms, and treatments is key to relieving your pain.
First, let’s try to understand the basics of sciatica. Sciatica is not actually a medical diagnosis but instead, pain related to an underlying issue with the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerves run from the lower back through the buttocks and down each leg. When this nerve is irritated or compressed, it can cause pain and discomfort along the nerve called sciatica.
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed, irritated, or damaged. Here are just a few of the potential causes:
- Herniated Disk:The disks that lie between the vertebrae of the spine can become herniated, meaning they slip out of place. When this occurs near the sciatic nerve, the nerve can become compressed causing pain.
- Spinal Stenosis:This condition occurs when the space around the spinal cord becomes too narrow, irritating the spinal cord and spinal nerves, like the sciatic nerve.
- Spondylolisthesis: This condition occurs when one of the spinal vertebrae slips out of place. If this occurs near the sciatic nerve it can result in sciatica.
- Osteoarthritis:Osteoarthritis of the spine can cause the spinal discs to degenerate, resulting in bone spurs off the vertebrae. These bone spurs can compress the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.
- Spinal Tumor:Spinal tumors can cause a variety of problems including sciatica. If the spinal tumor is near the sciatic nerve, it can compress the nerve and cause pain.
Sciatica is usually associated with pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs on one side of the body. This pain is often described as burning or an electric shock shooting down the leg. Sciatica pain usually worsens when coughing, sneezing, and bending or lifting your legs. Sciatica is also associated with numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in your back and legs due to a lost sensitivity when the nerve is compressed. In most severe cases, sciatica can impact bladder and bowel functioning.
Depending on the severity of your sciatica, different treatments will be recommended. If your sciatica is mild, self-treatment can be effective at relieving your symptoms. Switching between icing and heating the site of pain as well as stretching and utilizing over-the-counter pain medications can help ease your sciatica pain. When your sciatica pain is moderate, conservative treatments may be recommended. These treatments include prescribed medications, physical therapy, corticosteroid spinal injections, spinal adjustments, and biofeedback. If these conservative treatments fail to alleviate your pain or if the pain is severe, surgery may be required. Spinal decompression surgery is usually recommended for sciatica to relieve any compression of the sciatic nerve.
If you are suffering from sciatica, don’t let your pain take over your life. The Spine Clinic of Oklahoma City specializes in conservative and surgical treatments of sciatica to help you get back to normal. Reach out to us today!
AUTHOR: Dr. Doug Beacham III, DO is a fellowshipped-trained, dual-board certified physician in the fields of Anesthesiology and Pain Management (American Board of Anesthesiology). He has practiced in Oklahoma since 2013, and currently serves on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Pain Society. Dr. Beacham is proud to offer Oklahomans the most advanced and effective techniques capable of treating a full spectrum of acute and chronic conditions.