What is Sciatica?

  • Pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the leg
  • Occurs when there is pressure on or damage to the sciatic nerve
  • Sciatic nerve starts in the lower spine and runs down the back of each leg

The sciatic nerve begins in the lower spine and travels down the back of each leg. It is the longest and largest nerve in the body and controls the muscles of the back of the knee and lower leg. It also provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg and the sole of the foot. When the sciatic nerve is damaged due to injury or degenerative disc disease or is subjected to pressure from a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or a spinal tumor, sciatica can occur. Sciatica pain can vary widely. It may feel like a mild tingling, dull ache or a burning sensation. In some cases, the pain is severe enough to render the person immobile.

Our Treatment Approach

Our back and spine specialists will perform physical and neurological exams to diagnose and treat your sciatica. Your physician may order an x-ray, CT scan or MRI to confirm a sciatica diagnosis. Initial treatment will involve conservative approaches such as exercise, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Your treatment plan may also include physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care or injections to block pain and reduce inflammation. Some patients with sciatica may find significant pain relief from surgery. Two common surgeries for sciatica are discectomy or microdiscectomy, removal of all or part of a herniated disc, and laminectomy or laminotomy, removal of all or part of the lamina, the bony plate that protects the spinal canal and spinal cord. Because our focus is on minimally invasive approaches, recovery times are generally quicker and patients often experience pain relief sooner rather than later.

Causes

  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spinal tumor or infection
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Trauma

Symptoms

Sciatica pain can vary from mild tingling to a dull ache or burning sensation (lumbar radiculopathy). Sometimes, people experience sharp pain in one part of the leg or hip and numbness in other parts. The pain or numbness may also be felt on the back of the calf or on the sole of the foot. The affected leg may feel weak.