Sciatica itself is not a condition, but usually a response to pressure coming from somewhere in the lower spine. Symptoms related to sciatica can include mild hip, thigh, or leg pain associated with certain movements and muscle weakness. While most of this discomfort can be managed with home remedies like using a heating pad, there are some sciatica symptoms Los Angeles spine surgeons believe you shouldn’t ignore.
Bowel or Bladder Issues
It’s not unusual to experience occasional numbness, muscle weakness, or tingling sensations when you have sciatica. What is unusual are symptoms that include uncontrolled bladder or bowel movements, which may be due to a rare condition known as cauda equina syndrome (CES).
CES is linked to severe nerve compression affecting ten sets of nerve roots at the end of the spine, which are responsible for lower extremity movements and bowel/bladder actions. The symptoms can come on suddenly or develop slowly over time as nerve irritation or swelling gets worse. Related symptoms may include:
- Severe or recurring lower back pain
- Sensory and motor difficulties within the lower body
Ignoring symptoms of CES may lead to increased difficulty walking or maintaining balance. Paralysis may also occur if nerve damage gets worse. In rare instances, the condition may develop when there’s no history or back pain. It may also occur in patients with a long history of recurring sciatica. Treatments are usually effective when the condition is detected as soon as symptoms become noticeable.
Worsening Neurological Symptoms
Weakness, tingling, and numbness are neurological (nerve-based) symptoms associated with sciatica that usually come and go. Such symptoms are usually triggered by certain movements. If these symptoms are severe and persistent, it could be a sign something changed at the source of the pain. For instance, a slipped disc may have moved to a position where it’s pressing harder on a nerve root.
Unusual Symptoms and Physical Reactions
Sciatica is sometimes the result of a sudden trauma like a hard fall or serious accident that caused a spinal disc to rupture and press on nerves. In addition to muscle weakness, numbness, tingling, and persistent pain, sciatica symptoms triggered by sudden or severe trauma may include:
- Signs of infection such as fever and chills
- Loss of appetite
- Increased fatigue
Pain Affecting Quality of Life
Sciatic symptoms may reach a point where daily activities are difficult to perform. Pain that becomes disruptive enough to interrupt sleep or keep you from walking or sitting without extreme discomfort shouldn’t be ignored.
If symptoms that were once under control occur with greater frequency, talk to your doctor. Surgery is often a last resort, in the form of a discectomy or laminectomy back surgery. Los Angeles patients may need to consider one of these surgeries their if symptoms are serious or not going away with other treatments. Many procedures that ease nerve pressure can be performed with less disruptive minimally invasive techniques. Injections placed directly into the affected area may also alleviate persistent sciatica symptoms.
If you have sciatica and are considering minimally invasive back surgery, Los Angeles is home to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons can recommend the best plan of action for helping you enjoy a pain-free life. Call 310-828-7757 today to learn more.