July 25, 2008 · Print This Article
Sciatica nerve pain describes irritation of the sciatic nerve and the associated symptoms that ensue. People complaining of sciatica symptoms will usually report discomfort, numbness, or tingling sensations in the buttocks and extending into the back of the thigh, the back and outside part of the lower leg, and around the outside part of the ankle and top of the foot.
When a medical diagnosis of sciatica is made, it will often be referred to as “radiculitis” or “radiculopathy”, which simply means irritation of the nerve root in the lower back. An important note here is that sciatica is often times the result of irritation of the sciatic nerve outside the spine.
Most sciatica symptoms are self limiting, meaning that they resolve on their own. Resolution of symptoms is usually within a few days to several weeks. The symptoms can range in intensity from a dull ache to a “burning or hot poker” sensation.
While sciatica pain can become severe, permanent nerve damage is rare. Warning signs to be on the lookout for include progressive leg weakness and bowel and bladder dysfunction. If either of these issues should be encountered, contact your physician immediately.
True sciatica is a symptom of an underlying problem that is causing the irritation to the sciatic nerve. For treatment to be effective, therefore, the source of the problem must be identified. Common problems that give rise to sciatica symptoms include:
A “diagnosis” of sciatica and/or radiculopathy is typically made based on the findings of clinical examination alone. Generally speaking, tension development along the course of the nerve and/or tenderness to direct touch can elicit symptoms. In either case, the term “sciatica” can be used to describe the findings. Further examination, along with diagnostic imaging, should be performed to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
Because sciatica is the result of irritation of the sciatic nerve and/or nerve root, treatment should be focused on alleviating the contributing factors that caused the irritation in the first place. Specific sciatica relief exercises should be performed to eliminate the influence of muscle and joint dysfunction. Spinal decompression therapy can be utilized to offset the effects of a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis. Keep in mind that the effects of decompression therapy are temporary.
If the sciatica symptoms are determined to be related to spinal stenosis or a herniated disc, epidural steroid injections should be considered. The premise here is localized management of nerve inflammation through the use of a steroid. Injections can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
As with any condition of the spine, back surgery is only considered if all other forms of treatment have failed or in the presence of a true medical emergency.
If you are suffering with sciatica or have specific questions about sciatica, I would like to offer you a free phone consultation. Sign up by clicking here ===> Free Phone Consultation
Written by Malton A. Schexneider, PT, MMSc