Sciatica is a condition that can result in persistent or recurring pain, numbness, and tingling sensations extending from the lower back area and radiating to the buttocks, thighs, and legs. It’s a condition that stems from the irritation of the longest single nerve in the human body, which originates in the lower spine and travels into the legs before branching off into other nerve groups. Sciatica affects around 40 percent of the population at one time or another, according to some estimates. If you happen to have this condition, you may be wondering if sciatica can be cured.
What Causes Sciatica?
To determine if sciatica can be cured, it helps to know what can irritate this particular nerve. A common source of sciatic nerve irritation is a disc in the lower spine that has become damaged or herniated. Discs that irritate the sciatic nerve can become damaged because of injury or age-related wear and tear (degenerative disc disease). Sciatica may also be caused by:
• Spinal canal narrowing in the lower back (lumbar spinal stenosis)
• A slipped vertebra (spondylolisthesis)
• Muscle spasms in the lower back or buttocks
• Excess body weight
• Lower back/nerve stress caused by pregnancy
• Spinal misalignment caused by poor posture habits (e.g., slouching, wearing excessively high heels, or sleeping on a non-supportive mattress)
How Can You Tell if You Have Sciatica?
There are usually telltale signs or symptoms that suggest you may have sciatica. Common symptoms and signs associated with this condition include:
• Lower back and/or hip pain
• Discomfort in the buttocks that becomes more noticeable when sitting
• Tingling or burning sensations felt down the leg
• Numbness or weakness extending to the leg and/or foot
• Shooting pain around the lower back/buttocks area that makes it difficult to stand up from a seated position
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure to consult with your physician or a Santa Monica spine surgeon for prompt diagnosis and treatment.
What Can Be Done to Manage/Treat Sciatica?
Ultimately, sciatica isn’t a condition that can be permanently “cured.” However, there are many therapies and treatments that can make this condition more manageable. For example, anti-inflammatory drugs and certain pain meds can make symptoms less distracting. Another option is steroid injections administered in the affected area to reduce inflammation in a more direct way. Additional ways to treat or manage sciatica include:
• A personalized physical therapy plan that includes therapeutic exercises, massage therapy, and similar active and passive techniques
• Activity modification to avoid movements or activities that tend to trigger symptoms
• Surgery to address the source of nerve compression (e.g., repairing or removing a herniated disc, removing bone spurs, or removing part of a vertebra to give nerves more room if the lower spine is abnormally narrow)
Even after a surgical procedure such as total disc replacement, Santa Monica patients may have some lingering nerve damage that results in occasional periods of discomfort. It’s also important to get an accurate diagnosis, since some symptoms associated with sciatica could have other sources, such as irritation of the nearby piriformis muscle. Once symptoms become manageable, most episodes of sciatic pain tend to be short in duration. You may also see improvements if you make certain changes to your daily posture, diet, and exercise habits.
If you suspect you have sciatica, call on the spinal health specialists at The Spine Institute to diagnose and treat the source of your back pain. Our pioneering physicians lead the industry in the use of innovative methods and cutting-edge technology to alleviate neck and back pain. To schedule a consultation, call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757.