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Understanding Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Last updated 6 years ago

If you’re consistently suffering from pain in your legs, you may have more than just a bad leg cramp. A serious condition called sciatica causes symptoms ranging from mild to excruciating discomfort, and can thoroughly disrupt your life. While sciatica is a “general term for pain shooting down the leg”, for the purpose of this article, we will use it as such.  Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of sciatica by reading below:

Sciatica Overview 
Sciatica is technically a symptom rather than a condition: nerve pain and inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The nerve begins in the lower segments of the spinal cord and extends behind the hip to run down the back of the thigh to the feet.

Sciatica Causes 
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated or damaged. Common causes of sciatica include:

  • Herniated or Slipped Discs Sciatica is most often caused by herniated or slipped discs, which put direct pressure on the nerve root.
  • Spinal Stenosis A narrowing of the spinal canal constricts the sciatic nerve roots where they exit the spine.
  • Piriformis Syndrome Muscle spasms deep in the buttocks irritate the sciatic nerve.
  • Spondylolisthesis A slipped vertebra narrows the opening where the nerve exits the spine.
  • Pregnancy Weight gain, shifted center of gravity, and hormonal changes can cause sciatic nerve inflammation.

Sciatica Symptoms 
The symptoms of sciatica can range from mild irritation to tremendous pain in the back, buttocks, thighs, and legs. The most common symptom of sciatica is a shooting pain that radiates down the buttock and leg. Many experience a burning or tingling ache down the leg.

Sciatica Treatments
Aside from resting, there are a variety of sciatica treatments which can increase mobility and decrease pain and pressure, such as:

  • Physical Therapy Customized physical therapy exercises such as stretching and lower back and leg conditioning decrease nerve pressure and pain.
  • Medicine Oral medications are often used to relieve stiffness and pain including anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, steroids, and prescription pain medication.
  • Spinal Injections Anti-inflammatory epidural injections such as cortisone reduce inflammation and swelling directly in the affected area near the nerve roots.

Learn more about sciatica from the expert physical therapists at New York Pain Medicine. An individualized treatment plan consisting of physical therapy and medication can help you get back on your feet after sciatica. Call (888) 755-2664 and visit our website to learn more about our pain management solutions.



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