What is sciatica?

Sciatica affects the sciatic nerve, causing lower back pain and pain in the hips, buttocks, and legs. The long sciatic nerve starts in your lumbar spine, passing through your pelvis and dividing into two. One branch goes down each leg, providing sensation to your lower limbs and feet and assisting with muscle movement.

Damage or irritation affecting the sciatic nerve usually occurs in the lumbar vertebrae, although it can happen lower down. In most cases, the pain and other symptoms affect one branch of the nerve rather than both, so only one leg causes problems.

What symptoms does sciatica cause?

The characteristic sciatica symptom is pain that goes from your lower back into one of your legs. Many people find their leg pain is worse than their back pain.

In addition to pain, you might experience:

  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Pins-and-needles sensations
  • Weakness
  • Loss of function
  • Numbness

Although uncommon, sciatica can sometimes cause bowel or bladder control problems.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is typically due to spinal stenosis — narrowing of the spinal canal. Stenosis can be caused by various problems, including:

  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Thickened ligaments
  • Spinal misalignment

The bone, disc, or ligament presses on the sciatic nerve, resulting in sciatica.

You’re more likely to get sciatica if your job involves repeatedly twisting your spine or you frequently wear high-heeled shoes. Sciatica is a common problem during pregnancy as the baby gets bigger.

What treatments can help with sciatica?

For most patients, expert physical therapy with the Onesource Sports Neuro Rehab team is an excellent treatment for sciatica. You need to stop doing activities that worsen your pain while the nerve heals and follow the therapy program your provider designs for you.

Some people with sciatica struggle with physical therapy because their pain is so intense. Anti-inflammatory medication should dull the pain enough for you to keep up your therapy. You might benefit from other treatments, like manual manipulation or spinal decompression to realign the structures in your spine and allow herniated discs to move back into position.

Other treatments can also help relieve sciatica. Heat and cold lessen pain and inflammation, while therapeutic ultrasound enhances healing. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) helps by overriding the pain signals from your sciatic nerve to your brain.

If sciatica symptoms are causing prolonged pain and limiting function, get expert help from Onesource Sports Neuro Rehab. Call the nearest office or book an appointment online today.