Reduce pain and improve movement with LA Pain Specialist’s Sciatica treatments.
Sciatica is a common and uncomfortable condition involving inflammation, or swelling, of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve begins at the center of the buttocks and runs down the back of each leg, and it is the largest nerve in the body.
- Sciatica often includes low back pain
- Symptoms tend to affect just one side of the body
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Symptoms of Sciatica
The most prominent symptom of sciatica is pain. It typically begins in the low back and radiates down the posterior aspect of the affected leg. Many people describe it was a burning or shooting pain that runs from the buttock to the back of the thigh and knee. Some people report that it can also be felt in the calf. Additional symptoms of sciatica include tingling, numbness, or weakness of the afflicted leg or foot.
Many patients report that their symptoms are worse with certain movements or actions. Most people find that prolonged sitting can aggravate the discomfort. Symptoms are also more noticeable with sneezing or coughing.
Causes of Sciatica
Several things can cause sciatica, and the symptoms result from irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The most common cause is a herniated disc in the lower lumbar spine which pushes on the sciatic nerve. Other causes include pressure on the nerve from surrounding bones, tumors, muscles, localized bleeding, infection, wounds, or pregnancy.
There are several conditions and situations that can put someone at risk for developing sciatica. These include degenerative arthritis of the spine, a history of herniated discs in the lumbar spine, and injuries to the low back.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
To diagnosis sciatica, your health care provider will begin with a thorough medical history and physical exam. There are some specific maneuvers, such as a straight leg raise, that may be done to check for sciatic nerve inflammation. The provider may also order imaging studies or other labs to further evaluate your pain. These studies may include an x-ray to rule out spinal fractures, especially if you have sustained a recent injury. The medical professional may also order an MRI or CT scan to assess bony structures and soft tissues in further detail. Sometimes a nerve conduction study is performed to check the functioning of the nerves or a myelogram to evaluate nerve roots.
Common Treatments for Sciatica
Treatment of sciatica focuses on reducing pain and improving movement. Medications can help to decrease the swelling and lessen the pain. These usually include anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers if needed. Physical therapy can be a great way to reduce the pressure on the sciatica nerve and thereby improve pain and mobility. This treatment focuses on stretching and exercises to increase flexibility and strength the surrounding muscles. Sometimes an injection in the low back can reduce the inflammation and ameliorate symptoms. Alternate treatment options include acupuncture, massage therapy, and biofeedback methods. In severe cases, sometimes surgery is an option to decompress the pressure and reduce pain.