The compression of the sciatic nerve, known as sciatica, causes a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from chronic lower back pain to numbness and tingling in the legs and feet. This condition is most commonly experienced in individuals nearing middle age and older, because sciatica – like most degenerative spine conditions – is frequently caused by regular wear and tear of the anatomical components of the spine.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is an all-encompassing term that is usually used to describe chronic leg pain that develops as a result of the compression of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar region of the spine, although sciatica causes a number of other symptoms as well. When the sciatic nerve becomes compressed, the regular function of the nerve is compromised and the muscles and muscle groups innervated by the nerve may be affected. As a result, sciatica can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- Local, chronic pain
- Pain that radiates along the nerve
- Unexpected muscle weakness
- Diminished reflexes
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- A feeling of pins and needles or extreme heat
Sciatica causes are numerous and vary from individual to individual. Most commonly, this condition is a result of nothing more than the natural aging process. As we grow older, the anatomical components of the spine – especially in the flexible lumbar region – gradually begin to deteriorate as a result of years of regular use. Herniated intervertebral discs, arthritic vertebral joints, bone spurs and vertebral misalignment can all occur, causing the sciatic nerve to become compressed. Additionally, a traumatic injury can lead to sciatica in some cases.
In order to effectively treat sciatica, the first step is to identify the cause and location of the nerve compression. Typically, a series of non-invasive, conservative techniques offer sufficient pain relief. In the event that anti–inflammatories, hot/cold therapy, low-impact exercise and stretching prove ineffective, surgery may be recommended.
Contact USA Spine Care for more information on sciatica causes and to learn how one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures may be able to provide you with the pain relief you require.