What Is Sciatica?
Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from your spinal cord and down the backs of your legs. Sciatica refers to radiating pain that runs along this nerve, often from your lower back and down one leg.
How Does It Happen?
Sciatica is actually a symptom of another issue, such as a nerve being compressed in your spine. One common cause is a herniated disc. Other causes are spinal stenosis, spinal tumors, a spinal injury or trauma, or a sciatic tumor.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
The discomfort of sciatica can range from a mild ache to sharp pain. Sitting for long periods of time can make it worse. Here are some symptoms to consider:
Pain that often runs from your lower back and down the back of your leg
Tingling in your foot or toes
Muscle weakness in your leg or foot
Sudden loss of bladder or bowel control
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review your medical history. He or she will also do some tests to measure your strength and reflexes. Other diagnostic tools include imaging tests, such as spinal x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computerized tomography (CT) scans.
How Is It Treated?
Usually conservative measures can bring relief for sciatica. These include over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, as well as physical therapy. A physical therapist can help you strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. You may also benefit from pain management injections at the affected area. In severe cases, you may require surgery to operate on a herniated disc.
What Is the Prognosis?
In most cases, your condition will improve through medications and physical therapy. If you undergo disc repair, you may need a few weeks for a full recovery.