Sciatica occurs because the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower spine down into the legs, becomes irritated or compressed. Symptoms can vary from dull sensations to searing pain that extends to the buttocks, hips, thighs, and even all the way down to the toes. Some people also have “electric-like” sensations or numbness in one leg. But not all symptoms of this nature are linked directly to the sciatic nerve. How you can tell if your discomfort is sciatica or something else?
You’re more likely to have symptoms related to irritation of your sciatic nerve if you have one of the common sources of this type of nerve compression. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or damaged disc located in the lower back area (lumbar herniated disc). Sciatica may also stem from:
The term “sciatica” is often misused because any type of lumbar back pain that extends to lower parts of the body is commonly thought to be sciatica. While this could be the case, you might have a condition that mimics sciatica by producing similar symptoms. Alternative sources of sciatica-like pain may include:
In rare instances, sciatica may be related to a spinal tumor, an infection in the spine, or a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome that affects a bundle of nerves at the base of the backbone. For this reason, it’s best to avoid attempts at self-diagnosis and get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon. Another reason to get an accurate diagnosis is so the actual source of your sciatica symptoms can be treated. Luckily, a specialist can tell if you have sciatica or something else by performing an assortment of assessments. Some of these may involve:
As for treatment options, if you have a serious issue with a damaged disc, an abnormally narrow spinal canal, or a slipped spinal bone, your spine specialist may recommend a surgical procedure such as lumbar disc replacement. Santa Monica patients are often able to manage sciatica and the common similar conditions mentioned above with medication, epidural steroid injections, therapeutic exercises, or progressive exercise programs meant to prevent symptoms from coming back or worsening.
If you think you may have any of these conditions that can cause sciatica, don’t hesitate to call on a spine specialist for diagnosis and treatment. The pioneering physicians at The Spine Institute have years of experience treating every cause of neck and back pain, so give us a call at 310-828-7757 today to schedule a consultation.