Sciatica is a medical term used to describe nerve pain that starts in your lower back and travels down into the back of your leg. It’s not just any low back pain, this lumbar radiculopathy, or pinched nerve, demonstrates specific signs and symptoms that a physician can identify after a thorough history and physical examination.
Your sciatic nerve is made up of several nerves from your lower lumbar and sacral spine at levels L4 through S3. These nerve roots fuse, forming a larger sciatic nerve in your pelvic cavity, and travel down behind your hamstring muscles. The nerve then splits into smaller nerve branches which cross into your calves and down toward the soles of your feet.
Sciatica is typically the result of compression of the nerve roots. This compression can happen from sitting in poor posture for a long time or lifting heavy objects incorrectly. You can irritate any or all of the individual nerve roots from L4 through S3 and experience pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness in either or both of your legs.
When sciatica is left untreated and symptoms do not resolve on their own, you may be left with worsening pain and long-term complications.
Since the sciatic nerve sends signals for movement and sensation, it is considered a mixed nerve. That means that if this nerve becomes compressed or irritated, you’ll experience pain, numbness, and weakness that will affect how you stand, walk, and interact with your environment.
Sciatica presents specific symptoms that can be felt deep in your buttocks or radiating down either or both of the back of your legs. Pain can even travel as far down into the soles of your feet.
Sciatica pain can be felt in many ways, including:
Also, you may feel a sensation of “heaviness” due to muscular weakness in your affected limb. The feeling of weakness can occur down one leg or both legs and depends on which nerve roots are compressed.
Sciatic pain often worsens with certain activities, such as:
Several conditions can cause sciatica. In most cases, it involves inflammation that irritates the nerves. If there is direct nerve root compression, you will experience pain and muscle weakness that affects how you move.
Common causes of sciatica include:
Additionally, certain lifestyle factors can cause increased and prolonged compression on your nerve roots, such as:
In most cases, sciatica can resolve within 4 to 6 weeks, and you won’t have to suffer long-term complications. If your symptoms are severe or you’ve been dealing with pain chronically (at least six months) and with neurological symptoms, your recovery time may be longer. Your prognosis improves when you begin treating your symptoms and their causes.
Failure to treat sciatica can cause symptoms to worsen, including:
Such complications can result in dependency on pain medications, disability, and decreased quality of life.
Most cases of sciatica can be treated and conservatively managed. We provide multiple treatments for sciatica, including:
Additionally, we’ll educate you on things you can do at home to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and restore your range of motion, such as:
Patient education is a cornerstone of our practice and the key to a holistic approach to medicine. Throughout the course of your treatments, Dr. Fierro will also help you learn to:
Use proper body mechanics – use your body the right way when getting out of bed, bending over, lifting heavy objects, or carrying things across the room.
Practice good posture – learn to move in and out of sitting, standing, and walking postures with less stress on your low back.
Avoid provocative activities – change positions often or keep away from activities that increase your pain.
The more treatment methods we can deploy, the better the results. All our treatments work together to maximize your recovery.
Dr. Fierro has extensive education, training, and experience treating patients with sciatica. Our process is patient focused to ensure everyone understands their conditions and options, and feels like they are part of developing their custom care plan.
Discuss symptoms. First, you’ll discuss your condition. Be prepared to answer questions about when your symptoms started and if they came on gradually over time or immediately after a specific incident.
Physical exam. Next, you’ll undergo a series of physical, orthopedic, and neurological tests to assess your:
Review diagnostics. Do you already have diagnostic tests with you to review with Dr. Fierro? If not, he will order some to confirm a sciatica diagnosis and rule out other underlying conditions.
Develop a custom care plan. After your examination and diagnostics are complete, we’ll review everything and come up with a personalized plan of care specific to your situation and what your schedule permits.
If you’re suffering from pain due to sciatica, we can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Let’s discuss your pain and your treatment options.