FAQs on Sciatica
Sciatica is a pain condition which results from compression or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body that extends from the lower back through the buttocks and down the back of the legs. Sciatica usually affects one side of the body and may cause significant pain and debilitation.
Is Sciatica a Common Condition?
Approximately one to three percent of the population experiences some level of sciatica pain at one time or another throughout their life (J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1984 Mar; 7(1): 1-11). The pain can range from mild to severe depending on how severe the nerve is compressed or damaged. The condition is most common in people between the ages of 25 and 50 years.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors Associated with Sciatica?
The condition known as sciatica is caused by a compression on the sciatic nerve, which may arise from damage, trauma or pressure on the nerve. The sciatic nerve originates in the lower portion of the spine and extends down the back of each leg. It is this large nerve that controls the muscles in the back of the leg and knee and provides sensations to all areas of the back of the leg and into the sole of the foot.
The most common causes of sciatica are injury or a “slipped disc”. This is known as a herniated disc, and most frequently occurs between either L4-L5 or L5-S1 levels. Bone spurs, tumors and herniation of the discs may cause pressure to be placed on the sciatic nerve, resulting in sciatica. A person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident or involved in a twisting injury may develop sciatica.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
The symptoms of sciatica vary greatly in nature and degree. Some patients report a tingling sensation with dull achiness that extends from their lower back into their legs, while others report sharp and stabbing pains that shoot down into the buttock and back of afflicted leg. The pain generally occurs only on one side of the body and can be felt all the way down the back of the leg and into the sole of the affected foot.
The pain may start out gradually and increase in severity over time. The pain may worsen depending on the activity being performed. A person may experience an increase in symptoms from standing or sitting too long. Symptoms may become exacerbated at night when the person lays down in bed and the muscles begin to relax, placing pressure on the nerve. Coughing, laughing, bending and twisting may all cause pain and symptoms associated with sciatica.
How is Sciatica Diagnosed?
A complete physical examination and medical history with a San Diego pain doctor are helpful in determining if a patient has sciatica. Many times, from the description of the symptoms, a pain management doctor in San Diego is able to determine if there is a possibility of sciatica. The symptoms of sciatica are unique and often easy to diagnose.
Muscle reflexes, mobility and weakness or strength tests are generally administered. The doctor may assess sensation in the foot and leg, followed by diagnostic tests that involve x-rays, MRI or blood tests, especially if the patient has been in pain for a long period of time.
How Can Sciatica Be Treated and Will My Pain Go Away?
While pain is the most common symptom associated with sciatica, it can be decreased
with management and treatment. Sciatica is considered to be a symptom of something else wrong, with the underlying cause due to compression or damage to the sciatic nerve. In many cases, conservative treatment is beneficial, but not in all.
Conservative treatment consists of the application of heat and ice to the affected area combined with rest and medications for pain relief. While bed rest is not recommended it can be helpful to reduce activities that aggravate the symptoms (Jegede, et al., Orthop Clin North Am, 2010).
When conservative care is not effective and pain persists, more aggressive treatment and pain control may be required. Your San Diego pain specialist may recommend injections near the nerve root to reduce pain and inflammation. These are known as epidural injections. Other medications may be prescribed to help limit the stabbing and jabbing pains that are often associated with sciatica. Physical therapy and chiropractic care may be required. This may include spinal decompression therapy, spinal manipulations, TENS units and more.
Nerve pain can be challenging to treat and recurrent episodes may persist. The pain may not immediately go away but last for weeks and months at a time. You may want to see a pain doctor in San Diego to ensure that you are presented with the most effective range of treatments available for sciatica. You do not have to suffer with persistent sciatic pain that can be debilitating and make life miserable.
If you or a loved one is suffering from suspected sciatica, the California Pain Network can help you. The Network connects those in pain with the best pain management San Diego offers, including Board Certified doctors who are exceptional at relieving sciatica pain.
Call (619) 500-1573 for more information and scheduling today!