The sciatic nerve runs from the lumbar (lower) spine through the buttocks and thighs, extending all the way to the feet.
At any point along the length of the sciatic nerve, the nerve can become pinched or irritated and cause severe pain and other symptoms. The most common areas for this nerve compression to occur is in the lower back, around the pelvis and within the hips.
Causes of a pinched sciatic nerve
Because the sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in the body, there are many points where it can become pinched or irritated.
One of the most common causes are degenerative spine conditions that result in narrowing of the lumbar spine. For example, herniated disc material or bone spurs caused by joint inflammation can place pressure on the spinal cord and the surrounding nerve roots like the sciatic nerve.
Another cause of pinched nerves is piriformis syndrome, a condition involving the compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle, which runs from the sacrum to the hip. This muscle can become shortened or tightened through overuse or injury, compressing the nerve running adjacent to it. This syndrome is relatively common in competitive runners.
Symptoms and treatment of a pinched sciatic nerve
The collective symptoms of a pinched sciatic nerve are known as sciatica. This term encompasses a range of issues that can affect areas from the lower back to the feet, and can include the following specific issues:
- Numbness and muscle weakness throughout the lower body
- Tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations
- Shooting or burning pain
- Trouble lifting the feet (foot drop)
- Difficulty sitting, standing or walking
Generally, these symptoms occur only on one side of the body and they start gradually before intensifying.
Sciatica can generally be treated by stretching, taking medications and applying hot and cold compression to the affected areas, although some patients do seek surgery as a method for addressing the pinched nerve. Your physician will likely only recommend spine surgery if all conservative treatments have been exhausted and you are still in pain.
At USA Spine Care, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open neck and back procedures. Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice and offer many advantages compared to traditional open back surgery and fusion.^
To learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery to treat sciatica pain, contact USA Spine Care today. We can review your MRI report or CT scan at no cost* to see if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.