by Dr. Michael Baranov, PT, April 3, 2015
Pain Running Along the Sciatic Nerve is Termed Sciatica
Sciatica is not so much a disorder in itself as it is a correlated group of symptoms. The concurrence of symptoms have been recognized since the 15th century. Fortunately, if you need treatment for sciatica in Fresh Meadows, we can help. Here’s more information about sciatica:
Sciatica symptoms usually manifest themselves on one side of the body and may include:
- lower back pain,
- pain and numbness in the buttock,
- pain or weakness in various parts of the leg and foot,
- a “pins and needles” sensation, tingling or difficulty moving or controlling the leg,
- sometimes pain radiating above the knee.
Depending on the way it is defined, up to 43% of the population has sciatica. About one-and-a-half percent of the population experiences sciatica pain with the more serious causes.
Causes of sciatica:
- Spinal disc herniation or “slipped disc,” where a tear in a part of the tissue between the bony discs of the spine bulges out causing inflammation and pain. These herniations normally heal in a matter of weeks.
- Spinal stenosis, where the spaces the spinal cord runs through become narrow and compresses the spinal cord or the “sciatic roots.”
- Piriformis, caused by an anatomical anomoly, in which the path of the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle, rather than beneath it. Spasms of this muscle may cause compression of the sciatic nerve.
- Pregnancy can cause sciatic pain when the weight of the fetus presses on the sciatic nerve.
- Tumors impinging on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
- Trauma to the spine from accidental injury may also cause sciatica.
- Cauda equina syndrome, where there is damage to knot of nerves on the lower spine above the buttocks.
Risk factors for sciatica include:
– Age. Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs, are the most common causes of sciatica.
– Obesity. By increasing the stress on your spine, excess body weight may contribute to the spinal changes that trigger sciatica.
– Occupation. A job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for long periods may play a role in sciatica, but there’s no conclusive evidence of this link.
– Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than active people are.
– Diabetes. This condition, which affects the way your body uses blood sugar, increases your risk of nerve damage.
Sciatica treatment depends on careful diagnosis but conservative care provided by physical therapists is a great first choice.
- Spontaneous remission is common after a period of weeks to months. Physical therapy has often been prescribed.
- Medication is often prescribed. However, pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications are not proven to help. There is also little evidence that opioids, steroids or muscle relaxants are effective either.
- Surgery is sometimes indicated. This often involves removal of part of the inflamed disc. Sometimes surgery is the indicated treatment when the nerve compression is due to an abscess or tumor.
- Spinal manipulation may be an effective treatment for acute sciatica. However manipulation is less effective when the sciatic pain is chronic and is NOT indicated when sciatica is associated with cauda equina syndrome.