Sciatica is the name for a group of symptoms including pain and other sensations that occur when the sciatic nerve roots coming out of the spinal cord and extending into the lower back become inflamed and irritated. This irritation can cause pain, numbness or tingling sensations that radiate downward and outward through the buttocks of the patient, all the way down the leg to the ankle and foot.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatic nerve pain often has an underlying condition causing the symptoms:
Degenerative Disc Disease As you age, your spinal discs begin to weaken and shift. Over time, these motions accumulate, which can eventually irritate the associated nerves.
Herniated Lumbar Disc When a disc in the lumbar region of your spine becomes herniated, the fluid and tissue that leaks can irritate the sciatic nerve root.
Piriformis Syndrome The piriformis muscle in your buttock can occasionally impinge or irritate the sciatic nerve as it begins heading down your leg.
Spinal Stenosis Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can compress the nerves, causing sciatic pain.
Spondylolisthesis In spondylolisthesis, one vertebrae will slip forward over another, pinching the spinal canal and irritating the nerve root.
Tumors Spine tumors, depending on their location, can also compress the sciatic nerve.
Pregnancy, injury or tissue damage, scar tissue, developing cancers or even certain types of infection can all be sciatica causes as well.
The team of dedicated spinal specialists and neurosurgeons at NSPC in Long Island is ready to help you treat any and all of your underlying sciatica causes.
Common Sciatica Symptoms
The degree, type and symptoms of the sciatic pain can vary dramatically from patient to patient, depending on the particular location of the affected nerve causing the sciatica.
Most Commonly Diagnosed Sciatica Symptoms:
Leg Pain – Often in the back of the leg, and often much worse when sitting than standing up.
Burning and Tingling – Burning and/or tingling sensations felt anywhere along the length of the leg.
Weakness or Numbness – Other commonly diagnosed sciatica symptoms include weakness or numbness in the leg and difficulty moving your foot or toes.
Chronic Pain on One Side – One of the more unique sciatica symptoms is that it tends to only affect one side or the other of a patient’s body. It may extend all the way from the lower back down to the foot or toes, but will stay on either the right or left side of an individual in the vast majority of cases.
Acute Pain When Rising – Patients may experience an acute, sharp pain when rising from a sitting position.
Most Relief When Lying Down – Most sciatica symptoms are aggravated by standing or sitting, and can be somewhat relieved for a time if the patient lies prone.
How Do Our Neurosurgeons Perform A Sciatica Diagnosis?
The first step in a sciatica diagnosis is a medical interview, where your spine specialist will inquire about any past medical conditions and your family history of spinal or neurological issues that may be contributing or aggravating your problem.
Next, a physical examination will be performed. During this examination, the doctor will test your range of motion, note the degree of pain and check several other factors. In the vast majority of cases, they will be able to determine the approximate location of the nerve impingement simply from the examination itself.
The neurosurgeon may order a medical imaging test to confirm the sciatica diagnosis and to investigate other possible issues and causes of the sciatica. Most often CT scans and MRIs are employed for this purpose, although electromyogram testing is used in some cases as well; medical imaging allows physicians to exactly pinpoint the nerves causing the sciatica.
Treatments for Sciatica
Treatment plans often start with medications, which may include anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles and increase flexibility. Steroid injections may reduce inflammation and the associated pain around the sciatic nerve. When other treatments are not effective, surgery may be the best treatment for your sciatica.
Surgical options for sciatica treatments depend on the underlying cause of the nerve irritation. These surgical treatments include both minimally invasive and open procedures:
Lumbar Laminectomy This surgical procedure reduces pressure on the nerve root by removing a portion of the lamina (part of the vertebral bone) and any bony growths to increase the spinal canal opening. This operation is often used for those with spinal stenosis. If the narrowed spinal canal put pressure on the sciatic nerve, this decompression surgery may alleviate the sciatic symptoms.
Microdiscectomy During this procedure, the neurosurgeon employs specialized microscopes to removed damage or herniated discs. If these discs are impinging on the sciatic nerve, this may relieve the sciatica.
As leaders in neurosurgical practice in the New York region, our top-notch multi-disciplinary team of physicians can provide expert surgical treatment options for less common causes of sciatica, such as brain and spine cancers along with other tumors.
A brain and spine specialist experienced in the underlying causes of sciatica can be the best doctor to help you determine the optimum treatment plan for your chronic leg pain. Located in centers across Long Island, NSPC has neurosurgeons skilled in treating sciatica with state-of-the-art medical procedures.