Sciatica is a set of symptoms that are caused by pressure and compression on the sciatic nerve or one of the nerve roots in the spine that is connected to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica becomes chronic when sciatic pain persists for an extended period of time — generally longer than three months. Chronic sciatica can be difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. Like most chronic pain, this condition requires the patient to find pain management and coping strategies to help keep the situation under control.
Since the sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the legs, there are plenty of opportunities for the nerve to become compressed and for sciatic pain to develop. However, the most common causes of sciatica are degenerative spine conditions like degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, bone spurs or spinal stenosis. Read on to learn more about chronic sciatica symptoms and treatment options that work best for this debilitating condition.
Chronic sciatica symptoms
Sciatica is a specific subset of back pain that strikes fewer people than general back pain does. Only a physician can tell you if your pain is due to sciatica or if it is just common low back pain. However, here is a partial list of sciatic symptoms to use as a guideline to help determine if chronic sciatica could be the cause of your pain:
- Pain, tingling and numbness that starts in the lower back before radiating through the buttocks, hips or down the backs of your leg
- Pain that intensifies while sitting or standing
- Muscle weakness in the legs
Chronic sciatica, while painful, is rarely life threatening. However, if you experience extreme muscle weakness or trouble controlling your bladder or bowels, seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms can be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, which causes pressure and swelling on the nerves in the spinal cord as well as the possibility of permanent paralysis and in extreme cases, death can occur.
Coping with chronic sciatica
Living with ongoing pain of any type can be demoralizing and depressing. This is especially true of chronic sciatica, which can make even the simple act of sitting at a desk for work agony. It is extremely important to keep a positive attitude and talk to a physician or mental health professional if you begin to feel that your situation is hopeless or if you lose interest in family and friends, pleasurable activities or life in general.
If you are suffering from chronic sciatica, look for ways to manage and control the pain as much as possible. Staying physically active may help your body fight the causes of your pain and may even provide some temporary pain relief. Talk to your physician about what alternative measures may work for you. Many individuals with chronic sciatica find relief from conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, chiropractic work, anti-inflammatories, ultrasound or steroid injections. Be sure to check with your physician to make sure it is safe for you to participate in the above therapies before starting any alternative treatment plan.
Minimally invasive treatments for chronic sciatica
If you experience chronic sciatica and conservative treatments do not relieve your pain, contact USA Spine Care for information on how our minimally invasive procedures can help you find meaningful relief from back pain. As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we have had the privilege of helping more than 75,000 patients find relief from their chronic conditions.
Our team of dedicated surgeons is able to help alleviate your chronic sciatica symptoms through muscle-sparing techniques that result in less bleeding and no lengthy recovery.^ This procedure is conducted in our state-of-the-art facilities, where the structure that is pinching the nerve is removed, resulting in lasting relief.
To get your life back from chronic sciatica, reach out to USA Spine Care today and ask for your no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.