Sciatica is term used to describe symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and burning sensations that travel along the sciatica nerve from the low back, to the buttocks, and down the back of the leg. Pain may worsen with sitting, coughing, or sneezing.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica may be caused by a “pinched nerve” of one or more spinal nerves exiting the lower spine. Conditions that may cause this include:
Herniated, bulging, or “slipped” disc – disc matter putting pressure and irritating the exiting nerve roots
Piriformis syndrome – a small muscle in the buttocks region spasms and compresses the sciatica nerve
Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal putting pressure on the nerves
Spondylolisthesis - when a vertebrae has moved out of alignment either due to trauma or degeneration, narrowing the space where the nerves exit the spine and causes compression and irritation to the nerve root
How is sciatica diagnosed?
A complete history and physical exam is needed for the health care provider to diagnose and determine its cause. An evaluation of reflexes, sensation, muscle strength, and orthopedic tests will help to identify which nerves are involved. Further recommendations may be made to identify cause and prognosis:
X-ray – identifies fractures, degeneration, changes in alignment, etc.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) – images of the spine including soft tissue structures like your discs
Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) or electromyography (EMG) studies– electrical impulse are transmitted through peripheral nerves to test for compression
What conservative treatment options do you offer for sciatica?
Following the history, physical examination, and possible additional testing, the cause of your sciatica will be determined and treatment options will be given. These can include but are not limited to:
What complications are associated with sciatica?
It is important to be evaluated by a health care provider who performs a thorough physical examination. If compression to nerves continues over time without intervention, chronic muscle weakness like “foot drop” may occur.