What is Sciatica?


A painful and common condition, sciatica is a broad term that refers to any problem with the sciatic nerve. This issue creates shooting pain throughout the hips and legs. Usually stemming from another issue such as a herniated disk or injury, sciatica is typically caused by a compression of the nerve itself. This often creates numbness, pain, and inflammation, typically in only one side of the body. Though very rarely treated with surgery, most sciatica responds to noninvasive treatment and will clear up within a couple of weeks.

Symptoms of a Sciatic Nerve Issue: 

Sciatica pain is typically sharp, radiating pain, particularly in the back of the leg and the buttocks. Sometimes described as a shocking pain, it can also show up as a burning or aching sensation. You may also experience a sense of numbness or tingling in a foot or calf, as well, depending on the source of the condition. The following can aggravate your sciatica:

  • sitting
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • bending

Causes & Risk Factors:

Though some sciatica will show up seemingly without warning, there are a few factors that can increase chances:

  • age
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • occupation

A job that requires sitting for a long period of time, or conversely entails a lot of heavy lifting and activity, your risks may increase.

Preventing Sciatica:

As with many back-related issues, sciatica isn’t always easy to prevent, especially if you’ve had it before. However, there are many lifestyle changes that can be made to help lessen your chances. These lifestyle changes include:

  • regular exercise
  • proper posture
  • mindful body mechanics (don’t lift with your back!)

Diagnosing a Sciatic Nerve Problem:

Though most doctors will be able to pinpoint the cause with a simple physical exam, imaging is usually required. Most of these procedures are noninvasive and can be performed on an outpatient basis, however.

When to See a Doctor:

Sciatica isn’t a particularly serious issue, and usually, it will go away on its own with some rest and a few Motrin. However, there are a few symptoms that may suggest a more serious issue:

  • incontinence
  • sudden, severe pain in back
  • numbness in leg

If you’ve just been involved in a traumatic event, such as a car accident, and these serious symptoms begin to show up, it’s a good idea to get medical care immediately.

Sciatica Treatment:

Depending on the severity of your sciatica, your doctor may recommend a regimen of pain medications to help your discomfort. Drugs such as muscle relaxants, narcotics, and tricyclic antidepressants can all be effective for sciatica pain. Your doctor might recommend a steroid injection as well, which will typically be administered near the site of the pain itself. These help mostly with inflammation and can last a few months at a time. Rarely, surgery might also be on the table, but typically this is reserved for serious cases with more alarming symptoms such as loss of coordination.

If you are experiencing sciatica pain without relief, call us today to visit a spine specialist near you, at 888-409-8006. Offices conveniently located in South Florida; Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach & Plantation.