A painful symptom from various spinal conditions, sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched. Sciatica causes pain that radiates into the lower extremities.

What is Sciatica?

  • Sciatica is a symptom of pain from the disturbance or pinching of the sciatic nerve. Located in the spinal lumbar region, the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and involves motor functions of the legs, feet, and toes.
  • The most common causes for sciatica are spinal disorders that compress the nerve, like degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, and isthmic spondylolisthesis.
  • Most cases of sciatica are relieved through conservative methods of treatment such as mild stretching exercises, pain medication, and rest.
  • However, if the cause of sciatica is extreme or may cause nerve damage, then surgery may be recommended.

What causes it?

Sciatica is not a medical condition, but a symptom from spinal disorders. These disorders affect the lumbar region of the spine and disturb, compress, or pinch the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica. The pain varies on the individual and may be dulling, burning, or acute. Pain may radiate from the lower back down to your feet.

The most common spinal condition that causes sciatica is herniated discs. Lower back injuries and a variety of other reasons may weaken and rupture a vertebrae disc, causing its soft center to seep out and compress against the sciatic nerve. The spinal condition, degenerative disc disease, commonly occurs in the elderly and frequently causes herniated discs.

Other spinal conditions that may cause sciatica include: spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of spinal passageways, spondylolisthesis, or a slipped vertebrae, and rarely, spinal tumors. Pregnancy, obesity, and sudden trauma may put you at higher risk for some sciatica-causing spinal conditions.

How do you treat it?

Since sciatica is a symptom from spinal disorders, pain relief may occur when the medical disorder that is causing the pain is treated. Conservative methods of treatment are almost always recommended before surgery. Some of these treatments include hot and cold compresses, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, massages, stretching exercises, and low-distance walking.

If the spinal disorder that is causing sciatica has worsened or caused sciatic nerve damage, then surgery is recommended. If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for spinal surgery, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.