What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica, pain that starts in the low back area and radiates down the leg, is a set of symptoms that is generally caused by the compression of lumbar nerve roots at the L4 or L5 levels or compression of the sacral nerve roots at S1, or S2. The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body. It consists of five spinal nerve roots that leave the low back, join/converge in the pelvis and travel to the muscles in f your thigh, knee, calf, and ends in the foot.
Although low back pain is a common condition that affects 80-90% of people during their lifetime, it is estimated that approximately 40% of the American population will suffer from Sciatica. Sciatica is more common between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. The condition occurs in men and women about equally, some studies have indicated that sciatica is more frequent and severe in women.
What Causes Sciatica?
The compression of these nerve roots can be the result of injury, infection or/and general wear and tear of aging. Other medical disorders such as herniated discs in the lower back, spinal stenosis, or piriformis syndrome can also irritate and compress the sciatic nerve and trigger sciatic symptoms.
There are other risk factors for sciatica. Research has indicated that frequent heavy lifting, twisting and bending, exposure to frequent vibration, poor posture and a sedentary lifestyle all increase the risk of developing sciatica.
Patients with Sciatica often experience leg pain, especially when driving, sitting, bending or sneezing. You may also have weakness, “pins and needles” numbness, or a burning or tingling sensation in the buttock, thigh, leg, or in your foot. Other symptoms include a shooting pain when you stand up, a constant pain on one side of the buttocks and difficulty in moving or controlling the leg. Typically, the symptoms are only felt on one side of the body, but can be bilateral. Sciatica sometimes disappears as if it never existed and later reappears with greater intensity. Exposure to cold weather often exacerbates the pain, as the chill in the weather increases the stiffness in the muscles and the joints. It causes the muscles around the sciatic nerve to tighten and compress the nerve.
In some situations, Sciatic nerve pain can be reduced by certain exercises and heat and ice therapy. But when sciatica nerve pain persists, it’s important to consult a back pain specialist before the nerve becomes damaged permanently causing muscle weakness and persistent numbness.
Dr. Noto at Spine and Joint Center may check your muscle strength and reflexes to assess your sciatic issues. Depending on the severity of your conditions, imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, EMG nerve testing may be ordered for further diagnosis.
Sciatica Treatment Options
Types of drugs that might be prescribed/recommended are:
- Anti-inflammatory medications/supplements
- Muscle relaxants
- Nerve Medications
- And more
Injection Therapy for Sciatica
Certain medications can be injected close to the nerve roots or the piriformis muscle to suppress inflammation and reduce pain.
Physical Therapy for Sciatica
After the pain starts to decrease, physical therapy is recommended to strength your muscles supporting your spine and back and working to improve your posture.
Medical Acupuncture for Sciatica
There are many acupoints to choose from when using acupuncture to treat sciatica. Depending the symptoms, a few points are selected to boost the energy, increase the body’s endorphins and blood circulation to the area. Chronic sciatica may require many sessions to get significant relief.
Can Sciatica Pain Be Cured Permanently?
Like most other medical conditions, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. Depending on the cause and severity of the sciatica, many of the cases can be resolved permanently, other instances may become chronic but often can be managed effectively.
“Dr Noto is an amazing and caring doctor. He’s very knowledgeable, trusting, compassionate and has the greatest bedside manners. He’s one that not only will give you comfort but will also find the route to your issues. For him, it’s about fixing your issues and helping you have a better quality life free of pain! I’m forever thankful to him and his amazing staff!”
Rosario B. Verified Patient