Sciatica is a condition that describes nerve pain in your leg that is brought about by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve, the largest in the body, begins in the lower spine where nerve roots come together to form the large sciatic nerve. It passes deep in the buttock and down the back of the thigh all the way to the heel and sole of the foot.
The sciatic nerve serves a vital role in connecting the spinal cord with the skin and muscles of the thigh, leg, and foot, making sciatic pain a condition that can impact every element of your daily life.
If you are suffering sciatica pain, it is essential to understand more about its causes and treatments.
Causes and Risk Factors of Sciatica
Sciatic pain is commonly caused by a nerve in the lower back that has become irritated, inflamed, pinched, or compressed. For example, if you suffer from a slipped disc, you may develop this condition.
People are more likely to experience sciatica with age. As individuals get older, intervertebral discs, bone spurs, and spinal stenosis are likely to develop. Also, living a sedentary life can lead to this condition. Sitting compresses the spine, which can irritate spinal nerves. On the other hand, people who frequently lift heavy items may experience sciatica. Obesity raises the risk of developing this problem as well. Pregnant women who are having hormonal changes and who are experiencing internal pressure may develop this condition.
Spotting the Symptoms
The main symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from your lower back to your buttocks. This pain leads down the back of your leg. Indeed, discomfort may be felt anywhere along the nerve’s path. Pain differs from person to person. While you may experience a mild ache, your friend may feel a sharp and burning sensation.
In worst cases, sciatic pain may feel like getting an electric shock. The hallmark difference between sciatic pain and other issues is that you only experience discomfort on one side of your body. Mild symptoms may go away with time. However, when pain lasts for longer than a week or worsens, it is wise to seek medical assistance.
How Sciatic pain is Diagnosed
When you suspect a problem, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and check your muscle strength and reflexes. If you have difficulties lifting your legs one at a time or squatting, you may receive a positive diagnosis. Also, your doctor may order imaging tests. These may uncover back problems like herniated discs or bone spurs that are causing pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Pain Management Treatment Methods
There are several treatment methods that are used to control pain associated with this condition.
- Physical Therapy. When a person wonders how to treat sciatic pain, the first course of action is usually physical therapy. As your mild pain subsides, your physical therapist will create a rehab program that helps you prevent further problems. This may include exercises that strengthen your back muscles and that correct posture. These will increase your flexibility.
- Medication. Muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, and similar drugs may be prescribed to alleviate sciatic pain.
- Steroid Injections. Corticosteroids help to lower pain that is associated with this condition by decreasing inflammation around the irritated nerve. Unfortunately, the positive effects only last a few months. Also, the amount of injections that can be used is limited. There is a risk of developing serious side effects by placing injections in this area too often.
- Ice/heat. Cold therapy is beneficial during the onset of symptoms. It lowers blood flow to the area of irritation. Also, icing soothes the nerve endings and relaxes muscles. On the other hand, heat heightens blood supply that aids in the healing process and should be applied after the initial inflammatory response.
Treating Sciatica with Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Most often, minimally invasive spine surgery is a last option for this condition, especially when other conservative care measures do not work to relieve discomfort. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, it was reported that pain relief was felt twice as quickly among patients who received early surgery over those who continued using conservative treatment.
Many people shy away from surgery when thinking about what to do about sciatic pain. However, this option has made great advancements. In fact, two of the most common minimally invasive spine surgery procedures are microdiscectomy and lumbar laminectomy. These are now performed with new techniques that do not involve open surgery.
As a result, recovery is faster and brings fewer complications. Microdiscectomy involves the removal of a part of the vertebral disc that is compressing the spinal nerve. A lumbar laminectomy decompresses the area as well. In other cases, a diseased disc may be replaced with a lumbar artificial disc. This relieves sciatic pain and allows an individual to maintain normal spinal movement.
Sciatic Pain Treatment at Texas Surgical Hospital
Sciatica can be an extremely painful condition that disrupts your life. Luckily, there are numerous ways to control your pain. When discomfort continues, there are minimally invasive spine surgeries available as well. At Texas Surgical Hospital, all patients receive care from board-certified surgeons with world-class experience. We offer compassionate pain management care and also specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery techniques.
From consultation to recovery, we ensure your comfort and safety along your journey. You deserve the best surgical care possible, so select Texas Surgical Hospital.