What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to a variety of symptoms that occur with pain that radiates from the lower back or hip to the back of the thigh and into the leg, usually to the foot or ankle.
What Are Symptoms of Sciatica?
- Pain that feels like a bad leg cramp
- Sharp, “knife-like,” or electrical-feeling pain
- Cramps that may last for weeks
- Pain can occur particularly when moving, sneezing, or coughing
- “Pins and needles” sensation
- Tingling sensation
- Burning sensation
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatic nerve pain is usually caused by impairments related to a spinal nerve root (radiculopathy) at the L4, L5, or S1 level from a disc disorder, along with any sudden pressure on the disks that cushion the bones (vertebrae) of the lower spine.
Common causes of sciatica include:
- Normal wear and tear from aging
- Muscle spasm in the back or buttocks
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
Risk factors for developing sciatica include:
- Age: most often occurs in people between the ages of 30 to 50 years
- Nerve damage from diabetes
- Frequent heavy lifting
Triggers for sciatic nerve pain include:
What Is the Treatment for Sciatica?
Sciatica usually heals on its own over time. About up to 90% of patients recover within several weeks with rest and nonsurgical treatments.
Nonsurgical treatment to relieve sciatica includes:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Muscle relaxants
- Gentle heat or cold applied to painful muscles
- Staying active, which can help reduce inflammation
- Taking short walks
- Light stretching
- Strengthening core muscles of the abdomen and lower back
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections into the spinal area
Surgery may be recommended in cases where sciatic nerve pain is disabling for 3 months or more despite nonsurgical treatment. The two main types of surgery used to treat sciatica pain include: