Sciatica (Lumbar Radiculopathy)

This condition is an irritation or compression of one or more nerve roots in the lumbar spine. Sciatica causes pain in the hips, lower back, legs, and feet. It may result from a variety of problems with the lumbar spinal column bones and tissues.

What You Need To Know About Sciatica

What is Sciatica?

Your sciatic nerve is your body's largest nerve, running from your lower back to your lower limbs. The condition known as sciatica (lumbar radiculopathy) occurs from frequent compression of your sciatic nerve. Sciatic nerve irritation causes pain to radiate through your lower extremities, including behind the thigh and below the knee.


What Causes Sciatica?

There is no single cause of sciatica. However, sciatic nerve irritation occurs in a variety of ways.

One common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc. A herniated disc is a rupture in the fibrous outer wall of a vertebral disc, which allows the soft nucleus of the disc to bulge outward. This bulge can press harmfully against a nerve root.

Another common cause of nerve root injury is degenerative disc disease. It occurs when a spinal disc weakens, allowing vertebral bones above and below the disc to shift out of position. The bones can touch, pinching nearby nerve roots.

When bones, discs, or joints of the spine degenerate, bony spurs may form and push into the spinal canal or foramen space. This condition is called spinal stenosis, and it can also create harmful pressure against the nerve roots.

Other common causes of sciatica include:

  • Muscle spasm in your back or lower back.

  • Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one

  • Pregnancy

Although there is no single cause for sciatica, some factors that put you at a higher risk of developing the condition, including:

Age

  • Herniated disks and bone spurs are related to age-associated shifts in the spine and are one of the most common causes of sciatica.

Diabetes

  • Your nerves are more likely to be damaged due to how this condition affects your body's use of blood sugar.

Sedentary lifestyle

  • People who are motionless for long periods are more likely to develop sciatica than more active people.

Obesity

  • Excess body weight can add to spinal stress and trigger sciatica.

Job-related

  • Any occupation that requires you to carry heavy loads, twists you back, or drive a vehicle for an extended time, may play a role in developing sciatica.

Learn more about the Spine Center at Resurgens Orthopaedics.

Sciatica Symptoms

Common sciatica symptoms include pain radiating from your back to your lower limbs. Sciatica pain can disrupt your routine and can make everyday tasks difficult. These symptoms include:

  • Feeling pain in the lower back

  • Episodes of pain in the leg or buttocks that are exacerbated by sitting

  • Experiencing a tingling or burning sensation down your leg

  • Having difficulty moving your leg or foot due to feeling weak or numb

  • Consistent pain on one side of your buttocks

  • Difficulty standing due to shooting leg pain

Some people may not experience severe pain at the onset of sciatica, but it has the potential to get worse. Most affected people only feel sciatica on one side of their body.

Your Resurgens physician will be able to evaluate your condition thoroughly.

How is Sciatica Diagnosed?

During your initial consultation, a Resurgens physician will evaluate your muscle strength and reflexes. These evaluations may involve exercises designed to exacerbate your sciatica, such as walking on your toes and heels or rising from a squatting position.

You will need to undergo diagnostic screening to understand the extent of your injuries. These examinations include advanced imaging technologies like MRIs, CT scans, and EMGs. Only a qualified professional can determine if you have sciatica.

There is no such thing as a "textbook injury" - your doctor will design a treatment plan specific to promoting your healing.

Learn More: Spine Diagnosis

Sciatica Treatment Options

Sciatica treatments vary widely depending on your condition. Treatment options include non-surgical options like medication, physical therapy, RICE therapy, and steroid injections.

If your doctor decides your conditions merits intensive intervention, they may recommend surgery for your condition. Surgical options vary from minimally-invasive outpatient surgery to intensive open surgery. Some surgical options include:

Schedule an appointment today with a Resurgens Spine Center physician to learn more about sciatica treatment options.