Sciatica, also referred to as sciatic nerve impingement, is a condition in which damage or impairment of the sciatic nerve causes pain and related symptoms in your body. Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body, and it’s formed by the union of five nerve roots in your lumbar spine. It runs from this area down your thigh and all the way to the sole of your foot. Today, we take a closer look at why problems develop with this nerve and how a specialist can help you treat your sciatic nerve pain.
Why Sciatica Develops
Sciatica develops when the sciatic nerve becomes damaged, impinged, compressed or irritated. Actions that can lead to these issues with your sciatic nerve include:
- Bulging spinal discs
- Herniated spinal discs
- Bone spur development
- Spinal tumor formation
- Damage from diabetes
Symptoms of the condition can vary from patient to patient, but many patients describe their sciatic nerve discomfort as a shooting or radiating pain sensation. Pain that radiates down your buttock and leg is one of the most common symptoms of sciatic nerve impingement, as are localized or radiating numbness, tingling sensations, muscle weakness or gait changes. If you are dealing with any of these symptoms, consult with a specialist.
Diagnosing and Treating Sciatic Nerve Pain
If you believe you’re dealing with sciatic nerve pain, set up an appointment with a doctor who specializes in spinal nerve issues. During your appointment, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to look at muscle strength and mobility in the affected area. This will help them understand which actions contribute to or alleviate symptoms. To pinpoint the exact location of the compression, they may order imaging tests. X-rays, MRIs and CT scans are all reliable tests to look for nerve impingement in the area. X-rays can often help to show the location of the bone spur or herniated disc that are causing problems.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your specialist will walk you through your treatment options. Many symptoms can be reduced or eliminated with conservative treatments that include options like:
- Physical therapy
- Targeted stretching
- Medications like anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants
- Corticosteroid injections
- Spinal manipulation
In more serious cases, like where a significant herniation or tumor is causing the sciatic nerve compression, surgery may be necessary. A surgical decompression operation is ordered to relieve pressure on the nerve and stabilize the spinal segments that have shifted. Surgical outcomes of sciatic nerve problems caused by bone spurs and shifted spinal discs have very high success rates, while issues caused by tumors depend on more individual factors.
If you are dealing with radiating pain or a tingling sensation when you’re walking or moving around your house, consider having your sciatic nerve examined by a specialist. Treatment is rather straight forward and can usually help to greatly reduce symptoms. You don’t have to live in constant pain, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today for more information.