Sciatica and What Causes It
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It extends from the lower back, though the buttocks and legs all the way down to the feet. Leg pains and discomfort in varying degrees are commonly traced back to this nerve and the condition is called Sciatica.
It is important to understand that sciatica is not the root cause of the pain. It is not a disease; it is a symptom that tells your physician that something more fundamental is occurring.
Common Sciatica Symptoms
Because the sciatic nerve is so long, you may not associate the location of the pain with the area of cause. The condition is noted for a variety of symptoms that can occur in the lower back, buttocks and/or legs:
- Burning feeling
- Pins and needles feeling in the legs or feet
- Cramping in the legs
- Shooting pains
- Lower back weakness that can extend down the legs
- Pain worsens when sitting
- Pain worsens when muscles tighten such as when sneezing and coughing
Some symptoms may signal a potential for permanent nerve damage and require immediate medical attention.
- Loss of sensation in leg
- Weakness in leg
- Loss of bowel or bladder function
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is caused when some condition compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve. This is usually due to a slipped (herniated) disk or a bone spur on the vertebrae. Mild cases of sciatica often go away over time, often without the need for treatment. Underlying causes can include:
- Herniated or bulging disk (most common)
- Spinal bone spurs
- Vertebrae slippage narrowing the nerve opening
- Buttocks muscle tightness or spasm (Piriformis syndrome)
- Narrowing of the spinal canal
- Pressure on the sciatic nerve during pregnancy
Hunt Spine Treatments for Sciatica
Even though your pain may be acute, your doctor will determine if a non-surgical option can resolve it. At Hunt Spine, every effort is taken to treat your sciatica in the most practical and effective way before considering surgery. Physical therapy and medication as well as many other options may resolve your discomfort. Spinal injections can reduce inflammation and bring about recovery and increased mobility.
Certain chronic conditions may require surgery if other treatments do not bring about a response. These conditions will be investigated and confirmed by your doctor. Typical surgical procedures may include one of the following:
- Lumbar laminectomy. Widening of the lower back spinal cord to relieve or reduce pressure on the nerve. This involves a partial removal of the lamina, a boney structure that protects the spinal cord and canal.
- Full removal of the lamina.
- Discectomy/Microdiscetomy. Full or partial removal of fragments of a slipped disc. Minimally invasive due to microscopic magnification and a tiny incision.
These procedures take about an hour or two to complete and often require minimal recovery time.
Why Hunt Spine?
Doctors Leonel and Gabriel Hunt are board-certified spine specialists dedicated to comprehensive and effective care with the most effective, least invasive treatment, performed with most advanced and safest technology available.
Each patient is unique. Addressing back pain can involve a team effort including physical therapy, massage and many other options. Surgery is never a given, but if it is the best option, both of our acclaimed spine doctors are recognized as being among the best back surgeons in Los Angeles.