The sciatica nerve is the longest nerve in your body, so there are a number of different ways in which it can become compressed or damaged. Anyone whose ever dealt with sciatic nerve impingement or sciatica knows just how annoying the condition can be, and getting to the bottom of your pain and developing a treatment plan is of the utmost importance. In today’s blog, we look at the four most common causes of sciatic nerve pain, and we talk treatment options.
Common Causes of Sciatica
Here’s a look at four underlying causes of sciatica, and how the they are typically treated.
1. Herniated Spinal Disc – The most common cause of sciatic nerve impingement and related symptoms is from a herniated disc that is compressing the nerve. As we age, it becomes more likely that our spinal discs shift out of place if they become overstressed, and if they shift, they can impede nearby nerves. Oftentimes the sciatic nerve is the area that becomes compressed, especially if the herniated disc develops in the lumbar spine. Physical therapy or minimally invasive surgery to remove part of the herniated disc helps to alleviate sciatic nerve pain caused by a shifted spinal disc.
2. Spinal Stenosis – Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the space through which spinal nerves travel through begins to narrow. As this area for spinal nerves to pass through becomes smaller, the nerves in the area can become compressed, leading to sciatica. Stenosis can occur with aging or be brought upon by trauma to the area. Anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroid injections can calm irritated nerves, but you can’t naturally reopen this space, so if those treatments fail, surgery to make additional room may be necessary.
3. Trauma – Trauma directly to the sciatic nerve or to areas in which it travels can lead to swelling, compression and pain. Falls, trauma from sports and car accidents are all events in which physical trauma to the sciatic nerve can cause symptoms to set in. Rest and anti-inflammatory medications can help to provide pain relief while healing runs its course and swelling subsides, but more significant injuries may require hands on treatment from a neurospecialist.
4. Spondylolisthesis – Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition characterized by the shifting or slipping of a vertebral segment over the adjacent vertebra. This vertebral slippage can lead to nerve root compression and sciatic nerve pain in the legs. It can be brought upon through trauma, natural physical degeneration or develop as a result of a genetic predisposition. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and corticosteroid injections all help to calm irritation, and surgery can help if conservative techniques fail to provide relief.
So if you are experiencing sciatic nerve pain or just shooting discomfort in your legs when you walk or move, consider reaching out to Dr. Chang, getting a diagnosis and beginning a targeted treatment plan today.