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Sciatica Explained

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Sciatica Explained

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • Dec 26, 2017

Have you experienced pain, tingling, weakness or numbness that starts in your lower back and travels down your buttock and legs? Some people describe this type of pain as electric shocks running down their legs. If you’ve felt this way, you might have sciatica; this is not a medical condition in itself, but is a symptom of some other underlying condition. Often lower back problems cause sciatica, making you uncomfortable and wanting to seek help to relieve the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and has many nerve roots that branch out from the spinal area. When this large sciatic nerve becomes irritated or compressed, symptoms may begin to occur. This rarely happens before age 20, and is most likely to start around age 40 or 50. The most common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Constant pain in one side of your buttock or leg, often originating in the low back
  • Burning or tingling leg pain
  • Numbness, weakness or a prickly feeling down your leg
  • Difficulty moving your leg, foot, or toes
  • Pain that worsens when sitting or standing
  • Burning or tingling leg pain
  • Pain radiating down your leg and sometimes into your foot and toes
  • Sharp pain making it hard to stand or walk

Sciatic pain may be infrequent and mildly annoying, or it can be constant and debilitating. Usually specific symptoms are related to the location of the pinched nerve, and tend to develop over time instead of suddenly.

What causes sciatica?
Lower back problems are the most common cause of sciatica, such as:

What about treatment?
Since sciatica is caused by an underlying medical problem, treatment focuses on addressing the cause of the symptoms instead of just alleviating the symptoms. Self-care or non-surgical treatment is usually the course taken, unless pain is long-lasting and severe or you are unable to perform normal activities. Most sciatica patients improve after a few weeks or months, finding success with non-surgical treatments. It is recommended to see a physician such as Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City to make sure there is not a serious medical issue occurring and to learn how to reduce your pain.

Some common treatments for sciatica include heat or ice therapy, regular exercise or physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medications, or steroid injections. Occasionally surgery is the best treatment for pain relief and minimizing recurring episodes or ongoing dysfunction. If you suspect that your pain is related to sciatica, schedule an appointment with Dr. Fischer to get on the road to recovery.

 


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