Sciatica pain is related to the sciatic nerve, which branches down the spinal cord through the lower back and all the way to the legs. This nerve is the largest one in the body. When it becomes irritated or damaged, the resulting pain can range from minor to severe. The discomfort usually travels down one side of the back and into the buttocks and leg.
What causes sciatica pain?
One of the most common triggers for sciatica pain is a herniated disc in the lower back. Discs are located between the vertebrae to provide a cushion so that bones do not rub against one another and cause pain. If a disc is torn or otherwise damaged, sometimes the jelly-like inner material of a disc can come out and cause pain and numbness as it hits nearby nerves like the sciatica nerve. Because discs deteriorate with age, sciatica pain most commonly occurs in people aged 30 to 50. Obesity, diabetes, and prolonged sitting may also contribute to sciatica symptoms.
How is it diagnosed?
An experienced physician like Dr. Charla Fischer at NYU Langone in NYC can diagnose sciatica pain, often without requiring invasive tests. A complete medical history, detailed explanation of symptoms, and through physical examination may be adequate for Dr. Charla Fischer to diagnose sciatica. If pain is severe or diagnosis is difficult, imaging tests might be recommended. These may include X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or electromyography.
What about treatment?
The first step that Dr. Charla Fischer often advises is self-care and allowing the body to recover on its own. It’s possible for the body to reabsorb a bulging disc, so treatment may simply involve controlling symptoms as the body heals. It may be surprising how quickly pain can subside if sciatica is not severe. Sciatica pain medications may include muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, narcotics, anti-seizure drugs, or tricyclic antidepressants. It is usually not recommended to maintain strict rest, because the body actually heals more quickly and efficiently when patients remain as active as possible while still avoiding discomfort. Lying down for short periods of time is advised over prolonged bed rest. Walking short distances and avoiding prolonged sitting is advised. Dr. Charla Fischer at NYU Langone sometimes recommends certain sciatica patients undergo physical therapy, steroid injections, chiropractic treatment, massage, or acupuncture. Surgery may be the best treatment option as a last resort for patients with severe sciatica symptoms that won’t subside using other methods.
Additional information about Sciatica:
Common Causes of Sciatica
Treatment for Sciatica
Exercises Stretches Sciatica Pain
Sciatica and How it Affects Your Body
What is Sciatica Pain and what are the causes
All You Must Know About Sciatica Pain