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Sciatica and How it Affects Your Body
Your sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in your body. This nerve controls muscles in the back of your lower leg and knee, and provides feeling to your thigh, lower leg, and even your foot. When your sciatic nerve is compromised, you feel it.
What is sciatica?
Your sciatic nerve starts in your lower back, runs down your hip and the back of your leg, and ends in your foot. When the nerve is compressed or damaged, pain can occur anywhere from the lower back, hip, legs and feet. The pain can be mild or sharp, and other symptoms may include tingling, numbness, or burning in the hip, leg or foot. Sciatica pain tends to worsen at night and can intensify with sitting, standing, coughing or sneezing.
What causes sciatica?
The most common cause of sciatica is a bulging or ruptured disc, also called a herniated disc, that presses against the sciatic nerve. Other conditions may also be the culprit, including spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, bone spurs, arthritis, tumors, or injuries or fractures to the hip or spine. Sometimes even things like poor posture, lack of exercise, smoking, diabetes, or prolonged sitting can cause sciatica.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
It is important to diagnose the underlying cause of sciatica, since pain is a symptom rather than a disease itself. Proper diagnosis of the specific sciatica cause is the best way to determine effective treatment. Make an appointment with Dr. Charla Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City for diagnosis of your symptoms. Physical and neurological examination, medical history, and imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans are all possible methods that Dr. Charla Fischer will use to diagnose your condition.
How is it treated?
Sometimes sciatica resolves itself without treatment, or conservative treatment is enough to relieve symptoms. The goal of conservative treatment is to reduce pain and nerve inflammation through methods like ice packs, heat application, pain medication, activity modification, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or spinal injections. Back braces are sometimes recommended to support the lower back and limit mobility. If sciatica symptoms do not respond to these types of treatments, spine surgery may be advised. Seeking proper medical care from a specialist such as Dr. Charla Fischer is the best way to achieve relief from sciatica symptoms and treatment of the underlying cause, so that recurring sciatica pain is less likely to occur and you can maintain a healthy body and the lifestyle you enjoy.