Sciatica: What Is It and What Can Be Done to Treat It

Oct 21, 2014 @ 12:25 PM — by Aron D Rovner, MD 
Tagged with: Sciatica | Back Pain

The team here at New York Spine and Sports Surgery is able to assist patients with different kinds of problems. We are experienced at treating various spinal and orthopedic conditions, restoring mobility while also promoting prevention and lasting wellness.

The lower back and lower extremities bear the weight of the body and consequently are subject to many different kinds of problems. One such issue is sciatica, which we'd like to examine in some detail right now.

About Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body in terms of its length and width. It starts in the lower back and extends down through the buttocks and lower legs.

The condition sciatica refers to problems with the sciatic nerve that result in pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, and or legs. While both sides can be affected, people who experience sciatica typically experience pain and discomfort along one leg/one side only.

Causes of Sciatica

The most common causes of sciatica are conditions or injuries to the lower back that pinch or affect the sciatic nerve. This includes:

  • Herniated/ruptured discs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Piriformis syndrome

The above may be the result of physical injuries, the aging process, and other factors. In addition to these spinal conditions, pregnancy, spinal tumors, infections of the spine, muscle strain, and scar tissue in the lower back have all be known to cause or contribute to cases of sciatica.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Some common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Persistent pain in the leg and/or buttocks
  • Pronounced discomfort when standing or sitting
  • Weakness in the leg
  • Tingling or numbness of the leg
  • Lower back pain
  • Issues with bowel and bladder control

Risk Factors to Consider

Some common contributing factors that make sciatica more likely are as follows:

  • Advanced age
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity and morbid obesity
  • Occupations that involve heavy lifting
  • Sitting for prolonged periods of time

Treatment Options for Sciatica

There are numerous treatments for sciatica depending on the cause of the condition and the needs of the patient.

Conservative treatments are common early on if the sciatica is not particularly severe. This includes the use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicine. Corticosteroid injections may also be used, with the injections targeting the area directly around the root of the sciatic nerve.

Apart from the use of medications, it's not uncommon for sciatica treatment to involve some form of physical rehabilitation and exercise. These will improve a patient's posture, enhance flexibility, and also improve the strength of the core muscles.

If a patient does not respond well to minimally invasive and non-invasive therapies, surgery may be performed. The surgery will help relieve the pressure placed on the pinched sciatic nerve. The exact nature of the surgery can be discussed during the consultation process.

Prevention of Sciatica

To prevent sciatica, consider the following:

  • Exercise regularly with a focus on both cardio and core strength
  • Maintain good posture when sitting and standing
  • Stand and walk around if you have been sitting for a long time
  • Lift from the knees when dealing with heavy objects

Learn More About Treatments for Spinal Conditions

For more information about sciatica and how it can be treated and prevented, be sure to contact our spine and orthopedic surgery center today. The entire team at New York Spine and Sports Surgery looks forward to meeting you in person and going over these matters in greater detail. We have New York offices in Manhattan and Westbury as well as New Jersey offices in Saddlebrook and Fort Lee.