Sciatica is a common term for pain that originates in the lumbar spine and radiates into the buttocks, legs and feet. Sciatica sufferers often have difficulty climbing stairs, walk long distances or getting a good nights sleep. However, many people are unaware that Sciatica is not actually a condition but rather a symptom of an underlying spinal condition.
The sciatic nerve is the longest continuous nerve in the body as it begins in the lumbar spine and extends down through each leg. In most cases, Sciatica is the irritation of the L4, L5 or S1 spinal nerves as a result of a herniated disc, Spinal Stenosis or other spine condition that causes compression of one of these nerves. It is important to seek medical attention at the onset of this condition, as it may indicate an injury to a spinal nerve. If treated early, the pain will subside with no lasting nerve damage. However, if left untreated, irreversible damage to the nerve can occur, causing chronic pain and potential loss of certain functions of the leg.
Luckily, Sciatica can be treated using several modalities including:
If Sciatica is in its early phases and is not constant, Physical Therapy can be very effective in reducing the pain and discomfort caused by the pain. The goal of physical therapy is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine and abdomen (core muscles), which will help in maintaining proper alignment of the spine while taking pressure of the segments of the lumbar spine responsible for the pain.
Interventional techniques are often used in conjunction with Physical Therapy to maximize pain relief. These techniques include corticosteroid and pain relief injections that specifically target the spinal nerves and reduce the symptoms associated with Sciatica. These safe and effective interventional procedures are provided by fellowship trained physicians, who are experts in treating conditions of the spine and spinal nerves and are able to create a unique treatment protocol for each patient.
If Physical Therapy and Pain Management are not effective, decompressing the spinal nerves via a surgical procedure may be necessary. This can be accomplished by a variety of approaches, again individualized to each patient depending on the unique circumstances.