Sciatica is a condition that develops when the sciatic nerve becomes “pinched” or impinged where it exits the spine in the lower back. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, extending from the lower back down each leg via two major branches. The nerve provides sensations throughout the buttocks, hips, legs, and all the way to the feet.
Because it involves a nerve, sciatica can cause pain and other sensations to occur locally and regionally along the nerve pathway. Common symptoms include:
Sciatica can affect one nerve branch (involving just one leg) or both branches of the nerve (causing symptoms in both legs).
Most commonly, sciatica is caused when one of the discs in the lower back slips out of alignment and bulges outward, pressing on the nerve as it leaves the spine. Sometimes the disc can burst, releasing a gel-like substance that can increase irritation along the nerve. Bulging or herniated discs can occur for different reasons, including:
Less commonly, sciatica can be caused by injury to the back, spinal diseases like arthritis or spondylolisthesis, or tumors. Symptoms of sciatica frequently occur when lying down and often interfere with the ability to sleep.
Sciatica treatment involves two goals: Relief of symptoms and prevention of recurrence. Many patients with mild to moderate sciatica can achieve both immediate and long-term relief with injections into the area near the spine to reduce inflammation and irritation on the nerve and to enable the disc to resume its normal position, combined with rest, physical therapy or lifestyle changes to prevent recurrence. Other minimally-invasive techniques like radiofrequency ablation can also be effective.
*Individual Results May Vary