Symptoms of Sciatica

Lower back pain sciatica symptoms

Sciatica Explained…

Sciatica is pain is pain felt in the lower back, buttock, and back of the leg and is most cases is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve,  There are two sciatic nerves that run from the lower back down the back of each leg. When someone suffers an injury or puts too much pressure on the sciatic nerve, it can cause them pain in the lower back that can spread to the hip, buttocks, and leg. Sciatica usually only affects one side of the body and about 90% of people can recover from sciatica without surgery.

Sciatica is usually caused by lower back problems due to disorders of the spine associated with a herniated disc, intervertebral disc degeneration, displacement of vertebral bones, bone spurs, joint cysts, or narrowing of the spaces between vertebral bones.

These disorders can cause irritation and compression of the spinal nerves that form the sciatic nerve, leading to inflammation, pain and numbness in the affected area.

Sciatic nerve diagram

Sciatica is not a medical condition – it is a symptom of an underlying condition. Disturbances anywhere along the course of the sciatic nerve can give rise to sciatica. The most common cause is nerve compression at the spine, but injuries to the sciatic nerve in the lower pelvic cavity, buttock, and back of the thigh are also frequent.

Most of the sciatica cases are caused by intervertebral disc disorders. The intervertebral discs are structures located between the spinal bones. They have a soft center and a rough exterior that act as cushions between the vertebrae to facilitate mobility of the spine.

Over time, these discs dehydrate, stiffen, and lose their cushioning ability leaving the nerves more susceptible to compression. When excessive pressure or stress is placed on the spine, the disc may be compressed to the point of a tear or a bulge outwards, creating a herniated disc.
When this occurs in the lower back, it may cause inflammation or compression of a spinal nerve, leading to sciatica.

Sciatica refers to the pain a patient feels flowing from their lower back through their hips, buttocks, and down each leg. The pain radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve and commonly only affects one side of the patient’s body.

The Root cause of sciatica could be one of or a combination of the following:

A Herniated Disk

Normal Disc Bulging Disc Herniated DiscA herniated disk is also known as a slipped disk or disk prolapse and can occur at any point along the spine. It most often affects the lower back or neck region and can be extremely painful and debilitating.

A herniated disc develops when one of the cushion-like pads between the vertebrae moves out of position and presses on adjacent nerves.

Herniated discs are commonly caused by overloading injuries or trauma to the spine. Disc conditions can also occur as a result of the normal aging process.  In most cases, a herniated disc in the lower back can heal in as little as six months, as the size of herniation shrinks with time via resorption. Surgery may be needed if medication, physical therapy and other treatments fail.

 

Bone Spur On The Spine

Bone Spurs lumbar top view

Bone spurs occur due to increased pressure on the joints of the spine. In many cases, bone spurs and other degenerative changes are considered to be a normal process of aging. The presence of bone spurs are common and by themselves do not necessarily mean that they are the contributing factor of the actual cause of pain.

The main cause of bone spurs is due to joint damage associated with osteoarthritis. Most bone spurs have no detectable symptoms and may go undetected for years. They may not even require medical treatment. Treatment decisions depend on the location spurs and how they affect your health.

Most patients with mild or moderate nerve compression from bone spurs can manage their symptoms effectively with non-operative back care including: rest, activity modification, physical and manual therapy, medications, and injection therapy. If these treatments do not alleviate symptoms surgical intervention may be considered.

Spinal Stenosis

Normal lumbar vertebrae spinal stenosis

The spine is a column of bones called “vertebrae” that provide stability and support for the upper body. It enables us to turn and twist. Spinal nerves run through openings in the vertebrae and conduct signals from the brain to rest of the body. The surrounding bone and tissues protect these nerves. If they’re damaged or impaired in any way, it can affect functions like walking, balance, and sensation.

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal column narrows and starts compressing the spinal cord. This process is typically gradual. If the narrowing is minimal, no symptoms will occur. Too much narrowing can compress the nerves and cause problems.

Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spine. How much of the spine is affected can vary.

Spinal stenosis is also called:

pseudo-claudication
central spinal stenosis
foraminal spinal stenosis

Although the pain associated with sciatica can be severe, most cases can be resolved with non-operative treatments in a few weeks. Patients who have severe sciatica and experience significant leg weakness, bowel issues, and/ or bladder changes, might be candidates for surgery.

There are many types and severity of symptoms of sciatica which vary between individuals. Symptoms may include:

The list of signs and symptoms mentioned in various sources for Sciatica includes the 15 symptoms listed below:

  • Pain from the back to the buttocks and down the backs of the legsSciatic Nerve Pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Buttock pain
  • Leg pain
  • Thigh pain
  • Onset of gradual symptoms:
  • Stiff back
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Foot pain
  • Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
  • Burning or tingling down the leg
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • A constant pain on one side of the rear
  • A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up

The Pain is often described as shooting from the back all the way down the leg and sometimes all the way into the foot. This type of pain may be described as shooting down the back of the leg. Patients should avoid coughing, sneezing, or any sudden movements of the back to protect themselves from further injuring their back.

Sciatica Doctor X-raySymptoms and causes of sciatica must be addressed in a timely manner or they could potentially lead to permanent complications. Complications can include: Difficulty in standing, walking, sitting down, turning at the waist, urine incontinence, bowel incontinence or other bowel or bladder difficulties can accompany sciatica.

 

These symptoms are a medical emergency and should be evaluated immediately…

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Good Luck and God Bless!