The sciatic nerve is the largest and the thickest nerve in our body that starts in our low back as multiple nerve roots coming off the spinal cord (like ramps) but then becomes a highway that takes the nerve impulses to and from the leg. Discomfort can quickly turn into a daily pain that may evolve into a chronic issue. Anytime there is pain going down the leg it is called Sciatica. It is assumed that the Sciatic nerve is the cause of pain. In most cases this is true but pain could be caused by so many other issues as well, so it is important to see a specialist at the Minnesota Institute for Pain Management. It is important to understand that sciatic nerve or its ramps/roots can get irritated or pinched by a myriad of actions. Our clinic feels it is important to seek help when you have Sciatica, especially if it does not get better within a few days.
Sciatica most commonly affects patients aged 30-55 years old and typically is caused by a herniated disk in the spine which presses down on the sciatic nerve. Usually, sciatica affects only one side of the body. A shooting pain or burning pain is associated with sciatica. If a patient has any of the following side effects they should consider calling their primary doctor pain management provider immediately: A severe pain in the low back that is sudden, a numbness or muscle weakness in one or both legs, pain after a violent injury such as a car accident, or trouble controlling bowels. It is pain that starts along your sciatic nerve and spreads down your buttock and the back of 1 thigh. Certain risk factors play a role in sciatic nerve injury including age.
Age can change the makeup of the spine, such as creating herniated disks and bone spurs, which are the most common causes of sciatica. Having a high BMI (obesity) increases stress on the spine as well as occupational hazards that require heavy lifting or driving for hours on end. As our Physical Therapist likes to say, “a body in motion stays in motion!” So avoiding prolonged sitting and staying active definitely play a role in the healing of sciatica as well. Medical conditions like diabetes increase the risk of nerve damage too. Surgery is one of the treatment options for sciatica to be considered last. We want to treat the underlying issues non-surgically at our clinics in Roseville and Burnsville, Minnesota
Knowing the cause of your sciatica and the disadvantages caused is crucial in determining which route is best for the patient- with medications, injections, physical therapy, and health changes made by the individual as another key part. What our provider’s consider is how sciatica is affecting the daily lives of our patients, and how we can safely and non-surgically intervene and create a healing environment for the patient. Keeping the patient’s goals in mind- whether it be to have extended pain relief for daily work/tasks, being able to do tasks that now seem unbearable to you, or just to have educated and caring providers in your corner are all things that our pain management plan addresses. Before considering surgery we want to educate the patient as to what the risks may be, and how to avoid a potential costly procedure. When a patient chooses to come to MIPM, we recognize that there are plenty of options but we don’t rush patients and want to hear them out and create relationships with our patients that relies on person-centered care that is built on trust.
3 Things That Might Be Causing Your Sciatica
If you experience radiating pain that starts in your lower back and makes its way into your buttock and to the back of one leg, you may have a condition known as sciatica. Sciatica can cause a leg cramp that gets worse every time you sneeze, cough, or even sit.
You may also feel numbness, burning, and tingling along your leg. The good news is that sciatica is typically short-lived and can be resolved without surgery. It rarely lasts for more than six weeks. So what exactly may be causing your sciatica? Keep reading to find out.
1 – Herniated Disc
A herniated disc occurs when a portion of the disc in your back leaves its proper place and causes bulging. While the majority of herniated discs arise in the lower back, they may happen in the neck as well. The most common symptoms of herniated disc include numbness, tingling, and pain.
This condition is usually the result of age-related wear and tear known as disc degeneration. As you get older, your discs lose their flexibility and become more susceptible to tear and ruptures. Herniated disc symptoms typically affect one side of the body.
2 – Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and often seen in older adults. It can lead to swelling, pain, and less range of motion in your joints. These symptoms almost always develop gradually and become progressively worse.
The most common cause of osteoarthritis is cartilage that slowly deteriorates. This is the tissue that allows for optimal joint function. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis can make it difficult for you to complete everyday tasks.
3 – Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when your spine narrows and causes nerve pressure. Typically, spinal stenosis leads to pain, hot or cold sensations, and tingling. It can also lead to bladder loss control, pain, decreased activity, and disability.
If you have spinal stenosis, it’s likely the result of age-related spinal degeneration. You may also have it because of trauma or spinal deformity like scoliosis.
In most cases, sciatica treatment starts with conservative treatments that resolve the condition and prevent recurrence. Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen may alleviate some of the discomfort.
Physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, and self care measures like heat, ice, and rest may help as well. Muscle relaxants may also be an option if you’re experiencing spasms. If surgery is necessary, discectomy or laminectomy may be performed.