One of the largest nerves in the body, the sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and travels behind the hip joint, through the buttocks, and along the back of each leg down to the feet. Branches of the sciatic nerve provide movement and feeling to the hips and lower extremities. Sciatica is the term used to describe a radiculopathy affecting the sciatic nerve. A radiculopathy occurs when nerve root(s) in the spine are pinched or compressed, resulting in radiating electrical pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the distribution of that nerve.
Video: About Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica)
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Typically, sciatica only affects one side of the body, although it may also occur in both legs simultaneously. The classic symptom is shooting or burning pain felt in the buttock and down the back of the thigh.
- Pain ranging from mild to severe
- Burning, numbness or tingling that travels a linear path
- Pain aggravated by coughing, sitting, squatting
- Loss of feeling and/or weakness in the legs* (rare)
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control* (rare)
*Although uncommon, sciatica can cause cauda equina syndrome. Symptoms may include loss of bowel or bladder control and/or pain, weakness, or loss of feeling in one or both legs. This is a medical emergency. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to be seen by a physician immediately.
Any injury or condition that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause painful symptoms.
- Trauma (i.e., back injury)
- Herniated disc, degenerative spine conditions
- Improper body mechanics (i.e., poor posture, lifting incorrectly)
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Topical analgesics
- Short-term rest
- Physical therapy
More often than not, patients with sciatica can be treated successfully with a combination of activity modification, physical therapy, and medical management. Surgery is seldom required. Dr. Stieber works closely with other highly skilled medical professionals, utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach in order to deliver the very best care possible. Recovery from sciatica can take several months or longer.
For those patients who ultimately require surgical treatment, Dr. Stieber offers advanced expertise and a variety of treatment options including endoscopic discectomy and minimally-invasive microscopic discectomy.