Sciatica is a catch-all term that refers to pain which is caused by either compression or irritation to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve travels from your lower back to your buttocks and down through your hips and down each leg. Sciatica usually causes symptoms on only one side of the body.

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The tell-tale sign of sciatica is pain that originates in your lower back and emanates down your buttock into your leg. While discomfort can be experienced anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve, most commonly patients with this disorder report pain that travels in a near straight line from their behind, through to their thigh and calf. The pain associated with sciatica can range from very mild to extremely severe. Some may also experience numbness and weakness in the leg which has been affected. Patients that have severe pain that lasts more than 6 to 8 weeks may be candidates for surgery. If you have muscle weakness then surgery may be more urgent.

For those who experience loss of bladder or bowel control, you will need to seek immediate medical care.

What causes sciatica? 

Sciatica is most often caused by either a disc herniation or bone spur which results in the pinching of the sciatic nerve. While rare, sciatica may also be caused by a tumor or damage to the nerve due to a disease such as diabetes. Those who are older, obese, or sedentary are more at risk for developing this condition.

Symptoms of sciatica

Most of the time sciatica affects only one side of your body or only one of your legs. Both sides can be affected but less common. The pain caused by this condition can range from mild to excruciating, at times feeling like a burning sensation or a sharp shooting pain that feels like a jolt of electricity just shot through your body. The most common symptoms that accompany sciatica include: 

  • Pain that shoots down from your lower spine to your leg
  • Numbness in the affected leg
  • Muscle weakness in your leg or foot

If you experience sciatica symptoms in both legs, have progressive muscle weakness in a leg that worsens over time, or experience bladder/bowel dysfunction, you are advised to seek medical care immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sciatica is diagnosed through reviewing your medical history, a physical exam and MRI.

Most patients will see improvement in their symptoms within 6 to 8 weeks and will continue to improve over time. Spinal injections may be helpful in reducing the symptoms. Medications may be required during the initial phase while the healing process is occurring.

If the sciatic pain continues to be severe despite these measures, minimally invasive discectomy would be an option.

Most will recover within 2 to 4 weeks.

Receive the care you need right away

Horizon Surgical can expedite your minimally invasive spine surgery to be done in a timely fashion. From beginning to end, you can typically receive your minimally invasive spine surgery within a couple months. With our reduced recovery times, you’ll be able to get back to living your life and doing what you love most right away.

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