Sciatica has a number of symptoms, but the most common is pain or tingling that begins in the low back and extends down through one leg. Most patients notice the pain worsening when they are sitting and can find it difficult to move or control the foot of the leg they are experiencing pain in. Some patients even find it difficult to stand due to the pain they experience in their leg.
Burning, tingling, weakness and numbness in the low back and leg are all possible symptoms of sciatica, and most patients experience near constant pain, though usually only in one side of their lower body. Exposure to cold weather can often enhance the pain patients feel. If the sciatic nerve is affected in a certain way, pain can even extend through the feet and toes, but this is less common.
Sciatica is usually caused by irritation of the roots of the lumbar spine, the lower portion of the spine, resulting in pain in the lower back and traveling down through the rest of the lower portion of the body. A condition caused by this pinched nerve is radiculopathy, which can occur in the lumbar spine region.
Some causes of sciatica include lumbar spinal stenosis, in which the spinal canal narrows in the lumbar region; degenerative disc disease, or the deterioration of the discs that cushion the vertebra; pregnancy; spondylolisthesis, which occurs when one vertebra slips over another vertebra; and spinal disc herniation, in which the center of a disc moves in a way it is not supposed to and causes the external fibers of the disc to tear and the nerve root to become compressed. Conditions like these can cause compression of nerves in the lumbar and sacral regions as well as the sciatic nerve.
Pain caused by sciatica differs for each patient. Some individuals experience very severe pain, which is debilitating and prevents them from carrying out normal, everyday functions and body movements. Other patients may have less severe, mostly irritating pain. Whichever side of the spectrum your pain falls on, it is still important to be seen by a doctor in order to have your sciatica properly diagnosed and treated. See how this woman was able to overcome sciatica.
In most cases, the previous symptoms are enough to diagnose a patient as suffering from sciatica. If a patient is suffering from a shooting pain or tingling down one side of their lower body, extending from the low back, it can usually be determined that they have sciatica. Regardless, your doctor will likely still perform a physical examination and discuss your medical history with you to be sure there are no other underlying issues causing your pain. A “leg rising test” can be conducted for a more definitive diagnosis. If, when you raise your leg, the pain you feel is reproduced with between 30 and 70 degrees of passive flexion, you will be diagnosed as positive for sciatica.
If your sciatica was caused by a disc herniation in the lumbar region of the spine, there is a 90% chance that the herniation will resolve itself with no additional treatment needed. If a disc herniation does not resolve on its own, elective surgery to remove the disc herniation is a potential option for treatment. There is some dispute in regards to whether physical activity or rest will best help treat sciatica and whether physical therapy can help improve symptoms of sciatica.
There is some medical evidence that spinal manipulation can be an effective treatment. If sciatica does not improve, many doctors will recommend minimally invasive steroidal injections to the site of the nerve dysfunction. These injections, which are composed of a mixture of steroid and anesthesia, help to reduce swelling as well as introduce pain-relieving medication to the area.
If you have any of the symptoms described and think you may have sciatica, a consultation with one of the BASIC physicians can help get you on the road to recovery. Please contact us today.