The term “sciatica” describes pain along the course of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine that causes pain to radiate from the back down through the leg. There are five nerve points where pain distribution can occur (all through the lumbar portion of the spine): L1 = groin, L2 = upper thigh, L3 = middle thigh, L4 = knee, L5 = shin, top of the foot, and big toe. Then the sacral portion, S1 = lateral calf, heel, and bottom of the foot (this is caused by a herniated disc and annular tear). Sciatica is a condition of the irritation or compression of one or more nerve roots in the lumbar spine. Since these nerves travel to the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet, an injury in the lumbar spine can cause symptoms in these areas. Sciatica might be a symptom of a “pinched nerve” affecting one or more of the lower spinal nerves. The nerve might be pinched inside or outside of the spinal canal as it passes into the leg. Chronic pain is a complication of untreated sciatica. If the “pinched nerve” is seriously injured, chronic muscle weakness, such as “drop foot”, might occur.
Conditions that can cause sciatica include:
- A herniated or slipped disc that causes pressure on a nerve root. This is the most common cause of sciatica.
- Piriformis syndrome which develops when the piriformis muscle, a small muscle that lies deep in the buttocks, becomes tight or spasms, which can put pressure on and irritate the sciatic nerve.
- Spinal stenosis which is a condition resulting from the narrowing of the spinal canal with pressure on the surrounding nerves.
- Spondylolisthesis is a slippage of one vertebra so that it is out of line with the one above it, narrowing the opening through which the nerve exits.
How do I know if I suffer from sciatica?
Sciatica is not a condition that always presents itself on a consistent basis, it can come and go. It can cause numbness, tingling, and pain. A complete medical history, including a review of your symptoms and a physical exam, can help the healthcare provider diagnose sciatica and determine its cause. For example, he or she might perform a straight-leg-raise test, in which you lie on your back with your legs straight. The healthcare provider will slowly raise each leg and note the elevation at which your pain begins. This test can help pinpoint the affected nerves and determine if there is a problem with one of your discs. Other diagnostic tests might be performed to look for other causes of sciatic pain. An MRI and/or CT scan are ways to determine whether the abnormality can explain the location and distribution of these symptoms associated with sciatica. Nerve conduction velocity studies or EMG tests examine how well electrical impulses travel through the sciatic nerve. A myelogram using dye injected between the vertebrae to determine if a vertebra or disc is causing the pain.
Sciatica pain treatment options:
- Epidural Steroid Injections
- Caudal Steroid Injections
- Neurostimulation Therapy
- Stem Cell/PRP Therapy
- Anti-inflammatory drugs or medications
- Physical Therapy
- Chiropractic Care
- Pain Psychology
- Percutaneous Discectomy
- The Biodisc® Procedure using the body’s own natural fibrin material to help the herniated disc to heal and alleviate pain.
Sciatic pain may go away with time and rest. Some people with sciatica will get better without surgery. If the pain does not subside on its own, then a good treatment plan can help to relieve your discomfort and return you to a pain-free and active lifestyle. Cell Bionics Institute offers a comprehensive spine functional restoration program to help patients with all of their spine care needs. With every treatment, we work to help with your current health situation, while also keeping your future health in consideration. The Biodisc® procedure is a much less invasive option, with a much more shortened recovery period than a more invasive procedure, such as spinal fusion surgery. See if you might be a candidate for Biodisc® today. Request a consultation with a spine care expert to discuss a treatment customized treatment plan to help with your back pain.