Pain in the lower back, weakness, numbness, or tingling that goes down to your legs and feet are symptoms of sciatica that can affect your work and routine life. Persistent or frequently occurring pain may be a sign of some underlying condition that needs medical attention. Visit Redefine Healthcare to learn more about the causes of sciatica pain, how it develops and what are the most effective ways to treat it. Dr. Eric Freeman is New Jersey’s best pain management doctor and leading pain relief specialist and helps you find a solution that works for you depending on its causes. With his team of specialists, Dr. Freeman uses the most cutting-edge therapies to alleviate pain and ensure a stable spine for long-term health.
The sciatica nerve originates in the lower back, from the spinal cord, runs deep through the hips and buttocks, and then branches down each leg. It is one of the most crucial nerves in the body and the longest nerve too. This nerve has a direct effect on your ability to control and feel your legs.
If this nerve is irritated, compressed, pinched, or inflamed you will experience sciatica pain. You will feel a sensation that manifests itself as moderate to severe pain in your back, buttocks, and legs. Some experience sharp, shooting jolts of pain, while others suffer burning, electric, or stabbing pain. You may also feel weakness, burning, sharp pain, or numbness in these areas.
Sciatica symptoms are often caused by an underlying injury to the sciatic nerve or the area that affects this nerve, such as the vertebrae, and the bones in the neck and back. Most cases of sciatica get better on their own with time and self-care treatments.
Pain that radiates from the lower back down the buttock and back of one thigh is classified as sciatica. Sciatica usually only affects one side of the body at a time, but it can also occur along both sides, depending on where the nerve is affected along the spinal column.
Symptoms of sciatica range from infrequent and irritating to severe and debilitating. It depends on the specific spinal nerve root that is irritated or compressed at the origin of the sciatic nerve. In some cases, one or more roots may be affected together.
Symptoms of sciatica include:
Sciatica pain may be constant, or it may come and go. It is also essential to note that all types of lower back pain or radiating leg pain do not indicate sciatica. Sciatica is specific to pain that originates from the sciatic nerve. These symptoms get better by walking or applying a heat pack over the rear pelvic region.
While some symptoms are specific to nerve roots, others are common and occur in all sciatica types. If you are unable to determine the causes behind your painful symptoms, consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible, as it may be a sign of some serious health condition.
It is significant to understand that sciatica is not a medical condition on its own. Rather it is a nonspecific term used to describe a variety of leg or back symptoms caused by an underlying medication condition.
Some common medical conditions that may lead to sciatica include:
These conditions may develop over time or spontaneously due to trauma or physical stress injury. Motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, or falls may cause direct damage to the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain. Conditions such as spondylolisthesis and herniated discs may develop from physical stress injuries, such as weightlifting.
In rare cases, tumors, blood clots, or other conditions in the lower spine can lead to sciatica. In addition to the terms that identify the underlying pathologies that cause sciatica, the terms lumbar radiculopathy or radicular pain may be used interchangeably with the term sciatica.
The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body. It is formed by the union of 5 nerve roots in the lumbar and sacral spine. There are two sciatic nerves in the body, the right and left nerves that supply the corresponding lower limb.
Characteristics of the sciatic nerve:
In rare instances, the sciatic nerve may split into two nerves, and the sciatic foramen merges again into a single nerve. The specific sciatic symptoms largely depend on the nerve root that is pinched.
It has been observed that a particular event or injury may not cause sciatica right away, rather it develops over time. Research shows that sciatica affects about 10 to 14% of the population, which includes people around 40 years of age. It is also found to be common in certain types of occupations that include physically stressing positions, such as machine operators or truck drivers. People who often bend their spine forward or sideways or raise their arms frequently above the shoulder level are at risk of developing sciatica.
A majority of people experiencing sciatica usually get better within 4 to 6 weeks with nonsurgical, conservative treatments. Recovery time increases in case of severe neurological deficits. Severe nerve compression with progressive symptoms may also require surgery.
Sciatica that occurs after an accident or trauma or develops with other symptoms like fever or loss of appetite should not be ignored. Cauda equina syndrome is a rare but serious condition that affects the bundle of nerves at the end of the spinal cord called the cauda equina.
Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
The presence of certain symptoms indicates a serious medical condition, such as spinal tumors or infections, which requires prompt medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms to avoid further complications.
It is best to treat sciatica as soon as possible to prevent the progression of symptoms. Treatment is aimed to decrease pain and increase your mobility using the least invasive options. Sciatic treatment includes both nonsurgical and surgical methods. Specialists recommend self-care treatment and nonsurgical methods to help you cope with discomfort and manage the pain.
Initial treatment for sciatica includes a combination of the following:
Acute sciatica can be managed with 4 to 6 weeks of nonsurgical treatment but chronic sciatica, which lasts for more than 8 weeks, requires longer treatment time, depending on the underlying cause.
If your sciatica pain cannot be managed with nonsurgical options or the underlying cause is severe and progressive neurological deficits occur, surgery becomes necessary.
Surgical options to relieve sciatica include:
The goal of surgery is to get rid of the pressure on the nerves that are being compressed or pinched, control leg symptoms such as weakness and pain and eliminate the cause of sciatica for a stable spine.
Some sources of sciatic may not be preventable such as degenerative disc disease or sciatica resulting from pregnancy or accidental falls. However, there are several lifestyle changes and healthy habits to protect your back and reduce your chances of developing it.
The following can help you prevent sciatica:
Practicing healthy habits, timely preventive measures, and maintaining a strong core can protect your back and legs and reduce the risk of issues associated with sciatica.
Mild or acute sciatica usually responds well to self-care treatments like over-the-counter medications and hot and cold packs. However, if your back pain is not getting better after a week or continues to worsen, it is time to visit a doctor. An underlying condition may be the reason behind the painful symptoms that need proper diagnosis and treatment.
Call your doctor immediately if you experience the following:
Even if your visit does not turn out to be an emergency, it is best to have it checked.
Do not let sciatica pain interfere with your daily lifestyle. Call Redefine Healthcare now and schedule an appointment with Dr. Eric Freeman, a board-certified Interventional Spine, and Pain Management specialist, to seek quick relief from debilitating pain resulting from various spine and pain disorders. He understands how frequently occurring lower back or leg pain can affect your life and creates a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs using minimally invasive therapies. The pain relief specialists at New Jersey’s most advanced pain management clinic use a combination of advanced technology and a patient-centered approach to help you achieve the best possible outcomes.
Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.
Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.
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