Sciatica is a term that is used to describe a collection of symptoms, most likely pain but also including such symptoms as numbness, tingling or weakness, that typically begins in the low back and extends across the buttocks and into the back of the thigh, sometimes extending down the entire length of the leg. It can be experienced in one leg, or both legs simultaneously. Sciatica is often used as a diagnosis in and of itself, but is more accurately classified as a symptom of a more significant underlying musculoskeletal condition. Conditions that can cause sciatica include lumbar disc degeneration, piriformis syndrome, herniated or ruptured discs, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis. The term sciatica directly refers to the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that begins in the lumbar spine and extends down the back of the leg. The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest spinal nerve in the human body, and transmits nerve signals to and from the structures along the entire length of the leg. Pressure on the nerve either at its origin in the group of nerves known as the lumbar plexus or at any point along its length can cause symptoms of sciatica. The symptoms can vary in intensity from irritating to debilitating. Permanent nerve damage is extremely rare.
Sciatica is rare in people under the age of 20, and is far more likely to occur after age 40. The cause of sciatica will vary, but it is most commonly non-traumatic and the onset of symptoms can occur gradually over a long period of time. This type of onset is typically associated with such conditions as disc degeneration, disc herniation, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, and spinal stenosis. However, the onset of sciatica can also occur quickly as a result of trauma or pregnancy, or such conditions as muscle strain, fracture, infection, or disc rupture. It is essential to fully assess the history and presentation of sciatica in order to determine how best to treat it.
Sciatica most commonly presents as pain in the buttock and leg that is frequently accompanied by pain in the low back. In most cases, the leg pain is more severe than the low back pain. There are a variety of presentations ranging from deep aching pain in the lateral buttock region, to pain in the back of the thigh, to pain that extends along the back of the entire leg into the foot. It is most commonly experienced in one leg only, but can also present in both legs simultaneously. In more advanced cases, the pain can be accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness of the leg muscles. Rarely, certain symptoms may arise that require immediate medical attention. These symptoms include: bowel or bladder dysfunction, altered sensation or function in the genital region, or other symptoms of sciatica that increase in extent, intensity or severity quickly. These symptoms are potential indicators of more severe nerve pressure or nerve damage that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Non-invasive treatment options for sciatica vary widely, but typically include chiropractic care, non-surgical spinal decompression, physical rehabilitation, injection therapy, core strengthening exercises, massage therapy, and pain coping skills training. At Lowcountry Wellness Center, our team of doctors will provide a complete review of your medical history as well as a comprehensive physical assessment in order to give you a treatment plan customized to your specific condition, and give you the best chance for rapid and complete recovery. Call us at (843) 793-1353 to schedule your consultation appointment today!