Shooting pain from your lower back down your leg is a classic symptom of sciatica – compression of the spinal roots that make up the sciatic nerve. If you have sciatica, orthopaedic spine specialist Evan O'Brien, MD and Chris Hennessey, PA at Woodbury Spine can help. At their practice in Woodbury, New Jersey, they diagnose and treat the causes of sciatica, including herniated or bulging discs. Get relief from your sciatica pain by calling Woodbury Spine for an appointment today.
The medical name for sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy. It affects the lower (lumbar) region of your spine, causing pain and loss of function due to nerve compression (radiculopathy).
The spinal nerves branch out from the bottom of your spine and enter the lower extremity through the pelvic sciatic notch where the nerves come together to form the sciatic nerve in the back of your buttocks.
These nerves play a role in making your leg muscles work, and they relay sensory information to your central nervous system (brain and spine) from your legs and feet.
If you develop sciatica, it affects these functions and may cause disabling symptoms.
The most telling symptom of sciatica is shooting pain, most often down one leg. The pain typically travels from your lower back and buttock into your hip and may extend the entire length of your leg in some cases. It tends to be worse when you're sitting and ease off if you stand.
In addition to pain, sciatica often causes burning or tingling sensations and sometimes numbness and weakness. You may find you have problems moving the affected leg properly.
Sciatica is due to nerve compression in your lower spine, most often because of a bulging or herniated intervertebral disc.
The discs in between your vertebrae are spongy pads that absorb shock and help stabilize your spine. However, with age, they can deteriorate to a point where the core protrudes through a weak spot in the outer shell. The tissue then presses on or irritates a spinal nerve that makes up the sciatic nerve.
Other potential causes of nerve pressure include spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) and the development of bone spurs.
To begin with, Dr. O'Brien is likely to recommend the most conservative approaches to treat your sciatica. These could include:
Epidural steroid injections might be necessary, if initial therapies aren't relieving your symptoms.
Dr. O'Brien might suggest surgery, if your sciatica isn't improving. He might suggest using less invasive methods. He specializes in using advanced, minimally invasive techniques to resolve the cause of your sciatica.
The surgery you need for your sciatica depends on the cause of the problem. If a disc is herniated, removing the small part of the disc that is pinching your nerve is usually the best option.
Sometimes the disc has advanced degeneration and instability that require you to undergo a discectomy procedure with spinal fusion, to remove the disc and join the vertebrae on either side. Another option is artificial disc replacement, substituting the diseased disc with a prosthetic device.
If sciatica symptoms limit your day-to-day life, get expert help by calling Woodbury Spine today.