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When Sciatica Erupts
You may have heard of sciatica and believe it to be a disease. However, sciatica is actually a symptom of another problem. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, starting in the spinal cord and running from the lower back down the buttocks and into the legs and feet. If this nerve is damaged in some way, it can cause pain that impacts all muscles that the nerve is connected with. This means pain may begin in the back and radiate all the way down into the feet.
Anything that compromises the sciatic nerve can result in sciatica. Dr. Fischer finds that the most common source of this condition is lumbar disc herniation, which means a disc along the lumbar vertebrae of the spine has ruptured. The bulging disc may then push against the sciatic nerve. Another culprit may be a slipped disc, which occurs when a vertebrae slips forward over another vertebrae as a result of stress or fracture of the associated disc. Also, spinal stenosis can cause sciatica. This is when a disc becomes enlarged and presses on the nerve, often associated with arthritis related to aging. Advances in age may also cause spine and disc degeneration that can pinch the sciatic nerve and cause pain.
Pain is the primary symptom of sciatica, which typically starts in the lower back and radiates down the body. It can become difficult to move the lower limbs due to lack of sensation in the limbs from the impacted nerve. Sharp pain upon standing or walking can occur, and even sharper pain may occur when sitting.
The pain associated with sciatica is often enough reason for patients to seek the help of professionals like Dr. Fischer. Although it often goes away in a couple of weeks on its own, the primary treatment for sciatica is focused on getting rid of the pain it causes until the underlying condition subsides. Some patients also benefit from therapies such as steroid injections into the lumbar region, massage, physical therapy or acupuncture. Surgery may be recommended by spine surgeon Dr. Fischer in extreme sciatica cases, mostly those which cause major impairment of the patient’s mobility so the sciatic nerve must be surgically corrected. This is not a common treatment plan, as many patients recover without invasive measures.