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About Sciatica: 4 Things You Need to Know

December 4, 2017
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If you're experiencing shooting pains or achiness in your leg or buttock, you likely have sciatica. You may not realize, however, that sciatica isn't a full diagnosis, but rather a symptom of a larger problem.

Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica may be caused by one or more things.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body, and it's composed of multiple single nerve roots that branch along the lower spine and come together to form the main sciatic nerve. When this nerve is irritated or compressed, it causes sciatica. Many people feel the most pain in their buttocks or legs (on one or both sides) because the nerve runs from the lower region of your spine (the lumbar section), through your buttocks and into each leg.

Therefore, sciatica may be caused by any of these issues in that area:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Herniated or Bulging Discs
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Isthmic Spondylolisthesis
  • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Sciatica Symptoms

If you suspect you have sciatica, you'll want to know the symptoms it causes.

Here's what you should look for:

  • Constant aching pain in your buttock or leg, usually only on one side of the body. However, pain on both sides is also possible, especially if one side is more severe.
  • Pain that starts in your lumbar area and follows a path through your buttock or into your leg.
  • Pain that lessens when you walk or lie down, but worsens when you stand still or sit.
  • Sharp pain. Some patients describe it as feeling like an electric shock.
  • Difficulty moving your lower leg or foot due to weakness or loss of feeling in your leg.
  • Tingling pain in your leg or buttock.
  • Difficulty standing or walking due to sharp pain.
  • Pain in your foot or toes, though foot or toe pain alone is uncommon. It's usually accompanied with leg pain.

Sciatica Treatment Options

The bad news is that there's no cure for sciatica. The good news is that it's usually controllable with non-invasive treatments and rarely requires surgery.

Typical treatment options include:

  • Exercises and stretching that target the affected areas
  • Medications, such as NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Naproxen), steroids, muscle relaxers and opiates (usually for short-term use only with severe pain) for pain relief
  • Epidural steroid injections (aka "pain block") wherever the nerve is compromised
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Lifestyle changes, especially in the way you move or sit

We Can Help

Sciatica is painful and frustrating, but we can help you manage your symptoms. For more information about sciatica or other back pain issues, sign up for our newsletter and get updates on new information.
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