Common Sciatica Symptoms
Your back is hurting, you have shooting pains down your legs, or a dull aching feeling, and it hurts to stand or sit for long periods of time. Could you have sciatica? This condition, caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, can create infrequent or chronic symptoms which range from mildly irritating to seriously restrictive and painful. Before resorting to an minimally invasive discectomy or other minimally invasive spine procedure at Laser Spine Institute it is recommended to try conservative treatments for lumbar spinal stenosis and sciatica, such as physical therapy.
Sciatic nerve pain may not immediately make sufferers think about back health as the major symptom is usually sharp leg pain rather than back pain itself. The pain is usually unilateral (affecting only one side of the body) and it may present as a low back pain and radicular pain down the buttock and back of the thigh. Some sufferers experience pain right down into the heel of the foot and even the toes as the sciatic nerve branches spread far and wide.
The sciatic nerve roots exit the lumbar spine at L4 and L5, and other branches of the sciatic nerve exit at S1, S2, and S3, all joining up to form the bundle of nerves called the sciatic nerve. These then branch out into the legs and feet so, although sciatica usually causes pain in the thigh, compression of the sciatic nerve may also cause weakness in the legs, a reduced knee-jerk reflex, and even foot drop and pain or numbness in the top of the foot or between the big toe and second toe.
Sciatica sufferers commonly find that the pain is relieved by lying down or when walking, whereas standing or sitting can make the pain worse. Sharp leg pain and back pain may be accompanied by other symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis such as a dull ache and heavy feeling in the legs from neurogenic claudication. Unresolved sciatica can progress to numbness and weakness in the affected leg and foot and the nerve may incur permanent damage. Some sufferers find that sciatica pain in the foot can be so severe that it makes walking or standing almost impossible, severely affecting quality of life.
Sciatica can, and often does, resolve of its own accord as the spinal discs heal and no longer compress the nerve roots. Regular exercise, anti-inflammatory medications, analgesics, and resolution of postural deficits causing spinal stenosis can all help relieve sciatic nerve pain. Epidural steroid injections may also help reduce inflammation, nerve compression, and sciatica symptoms, allowing the spine to heal without surgery. Specific physical therapy exercises for sciatica are usually prescribed but where conservative treatments like these no longer provide pain relief back surgery is often the best option. Progressive symptoms resulting in weakness, bilateral sciatica, and even cauda equina syndrome often require immediate surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage.
An minimally invasive spine procedure such as a microdiscectomy, laminotomy, or foraminotomy can successfully remove the cause of sciatic nerve root compression and relieve symptoms of sciatica. Laser Spine Institute offers MRI reviews to determine the likelihood of a minimally invasive procedure providing sciatica relief. If your sciatica symptoms are getting worse then talk to your physician, or contact Laser Spine Institute directly, and find out if minimally invasive spine surgery could help set you on the path to being free of back and leg pain from sciatica.