The sciatic nerve in the human body is the largest nerve formed by the combination of 5 nerve roots from the lower spine. It passes down the back of the thigh through deep in the buttocks all the way to your heel and foot sole. The sciatic nerve plays a crucial role in connecting the spinal cord with your thigh, leg, and foot muscles.
If this sciatic nerve is compressed or inflamed or irritated by any other condition, it results in deep nerve pain, mostly in the leg. Sciatica pain often originates in your lower back, spreads into your buttocks, and then progresses down the leg.
Around 40% of people encounter this sciatica condition at some point of time in their life. Research says that this is a common condition among people of age between 25 and 45 years.
Causes of Sciatica
As discussed above, sciatica is a result of high pressure on your sciatic nerve. This sciatic nerve can be affected either inside or outside your spinal canal as it is extended to your foot. The pain also radiates from your spine to your foot.
It may be caused due to trauma or spinal injuries, obesity or pregnancy, etc. Some other conditions that can cause sciatic pain include:
- A Herniated Or Slipped Disc: It is a condition where the spinal disc in your spine is relocated or damaged. Thus the slipped or damaged disc creates pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain.
- Muscle spasm or swelling of the lumbar or pelvic muscles
- Spondylolisthesis: This is a condition where one vertebral bone slips on to the other vertebra under it. In such cases, the opening where the sciatic nerve exits become narrow and irritate the nerve causing pain.
- Piriformis Syndrome: Piriformis is a small muscle that lies deep in your buttocks. When this muscle gets affected, it irritates the sciatic nerve exerting high pressure, which ultimately leads to pain.
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: It is a condition where the spinal canal become narrows and puts pressure on the Sciatic nerve causing sciatica pain.
- Degenerative Disk: In this condition, your intervertebral disc begins to degenerate with age or due to some other causes. As a result, the shape and function of your disc and spine get disturbed. It causes pain starting in your lower back travelling down to your leg.
Age, a certain occupation that requires carrying heavy loads or drive for more extended periods, prolonged sitting, and diabetes, etc., can increase your risk of sciatica.
Symptoms of Sciatica Pain
Lower back pain and throbbing pain in your thighs down to your foot are the most common sciatica symptoms in its initial stages. The pain varies from a mild ache to sharp pain. Sometimes you feel like an electric shock. Some other common symptoms are:
- Facing trouble in lifting your legs
- Hip pain
- Troublesome walking
- Constant buttocks pain
- Feeling numbness and weakness in legs
- Pain while moving your affected leg
- Burning or tingling sensation in your leg
The pain may worsen when you cough or sneeze. Sitting for a long period of time can worsen your symptoms. Usually, sciatic pain affects one side of your body only.
Treatment For Sciatica
In most of the cases, sciatica resolves with conservative treatment in a few weeks. In case of severe sciatica associated with muscle weakness or bowel or bladder problems might require surgery.
Medication For Sciatica
Below are the drugs that may be prescribed if you suffer severe sciatica pain:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Muscle relaxants
- Tricyclic antidepressants in low doses
- Anti-seizure medicines in low doses
Note: Any Drug should be used under the supervision of a doctor.
Physical Therapy For Sciatica
Physical therapy includes a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises as a part of the sciatica treatment plan. Therapeutic exercises might also include in this physical therapy program. These exercises typically help to strengthen your muscles, correct your posture, and support your back and also improve flexibility.
A doctor may suggest giving corticosteroid injections in the area near the affected nerve root in some cases. They help to decrease pain by suppressing swelling around the irritated nerve. This is a temporary treatment option as the effect wears off in a few months. The number of injections given is also limited due to the risk of severe side effects.
Surgery For Sciatica
Spinal surgery is usually recommended only when conservative treatment fails to improve the condition. Severe pain, which prevents you from standing, walking, and other daily activities, requires more aggressive treatment and surgery. Loss of control over bladder or bowel movements require emergency surgery if determined associated with cauda equina syndrome.
The main aim of spinal surgery for sciatic pain is to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve that is being pinched. The two major surgical procedures for sciatica are microdiscectomy and laminectomy.
It is a minimally invasive procure where the surgeon removes the elements pressing your sciatic nerve. It might be a herniated disk or a bone spur etc. Sometimes the surgeons need to eliminate the entire disk in order to fix the problem.
In this procedure, the lamina (the upper surface of the spinal canal), a part of the vertebral bone, is removed by your surgeon. Sometimes the lamina and the tissue that is pressing your nerve and causing pain is also removed.
Surgery is not the only option to treat sciatica pain. A blend of treatments is available to sciatica. If you are suffering from lower back pain, consult Dr. Surya Prakash, one of the best spine surgeons in Hyderabad, to diagnose whether it is sciatica pain or any other back problem. He has more than 20 years of experience in treating various back pain problems. Make a simple consultation and get a solution for your back pain problems.