Sciatica is a condition characterized by pain that radiates through the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs through the lower back then separates and travels down each buttocks and leg.
Sciatica typically occurs when a bone spur or herniated disc impinges or “pinches” the spinal nerves that form the sciatic nerve. In rare cases, the sciatic nerve may be compressed by a tumor in the spine or damaged by disease.
There are a few factors that may contribute to the condition including:
- Age: As we age, the spine naturally degenerates, resulting in conditions such as herniated discs and bone spurs.
- Disease: Disease such as diabetes can cause nerve damage resulting in sciatic pain.
- Extended sitting: Patients who sit for prolonged periods of time or have a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to getting sciatica.
- Obesity: Pressure on the spine from excess body weight can cause changes in the spine that can trigger sciatica.
- Occupation: Jobs that involve heavy lifting or driving for long periods of time may aggravate the sciatic nerve.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Normally affecting only one side of the body, sciatica is pain that spreads from the lumbar (lower back) section of the spine and down the back of your leg. The pain may range from mild aching to severe, debilitating discomfort and may feel like a sudden, electric jolt.
In addition to the pain, some patients may experience tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot.
How Is Sciatica Diagnosed?
In order to confirm a diagnosis of sciatica, Dr. LaRocca will conduct a physical exam to assess reflexes and muscle strength. During the exam you may be asked to perform tasks such as rising from a squatting position, standing on your toes or lifting your legs in the air while lying down. Pain resulting from any of these activities typically signals sciatica.
If pain from the condition has not significantly reduced within several weeks, this may be an indication that the sciatica may be caused by compression of the nerve. If another condition is suspected, Dr. LaRocca may request additional testing such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
What Treatment Options Are Available For Sciatica?
At the New Jersey Back & Spine Institute, spine specialist Dr. LaRocca and his experienced, compassionate team of professionals may offer treatment options for sciatica which include:
- Medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants or narcotics
- Minimally invasive laminotomy with discectomy surgery
- Physical therapy to correct posture, strengthen muscles and improve flexibility
- Steroid injections