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Sciatica: Radiating Leg Pain

Sciatica is pain caused by a medical problem in or around the sciatic nerve. Because the Sciatic Nerve runs from the lower back down into each leg, we may refer the associated pain. While lower back pain is the most common symptom of sciatica, you may also feel pain in your hips, buttocks or legs, often on a specific side of the body.

The Sciatic Nerve is the combination of five nerve roots, two from the lumbar spine and three from the sacral segment. Bundled together to form the Sciatic Nerve, these nerves branch out again in the leg to carry motor and sensory messages to specific areas of the leg and the foot.

Sciatica pain typically comes on suddenly but may last for days, even weeks. The primary symptom is a sharp pain in or around the lower back, similar to a cramp, that radiates down into one leg. This is why Sciatica is sometimes referred to as “Radiating Leg Pain.”

In addition to the pain, sciatica may also cause tingling or numbness in the buttocks or legs. You may wake up one morning in too much pain to get out of bed. Or, you may be sitting in your favorite chair, and find it difficult to stand, due to pain, tingling or weakness on one side of your body, from the lower back to toes, or anywhere in between.

If you cough or sneeze, and you feel a sharp, radiating pain in your lower back, buttocks or leg, that could also be a sign of Sciatic Nerve trouble.

Specific Indicators of Sciatica

● Consistent, sharp, searing pain in the lower back, buttock or leg, usually on one side

● Severe, shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand

● Radiating pain

● Pain that dissipates when lying down or walking, but worsens when standing or sitting

● Tingling “pins and needles” feeling in one leg

● Weakness or numbness in a leg or foot

Different combination of symptoms or the location of symptoms may indicate certain, definitive causes of your Sciatic Nerve pain.

Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain

Sciatica is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50, but that doesn’t mean people outside that age bracket can’t be affected.

Sciatica may be the result of a traumatic injury or poorly healed damage from a previous injury. And it may be the result of simply lifting, bending or twisting improperly. Pregnant women may be at higher risk because the developing uterus presses on the Sciatic Nerve.

In addition to these risk factors, there are several other causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain, including:

Degenerative Disc Disease - collapse of the cushioning vertebral discs, causing vertebrae to rub together

● Isthmic Spondylolisthesis - small stress fracture that allows one vertebra to slip onto another

Lumbar Disc Herniation - tears in the protective spinal discs that reduce cushioning between the vertebrae of the spine

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis - narrowing of the spinal canal that can cause Sciatica and may be associated with enlarged Facet Joints - or disc herniation

Spinal Osteoarthritis - progressive wear and tear which causes pain and reduced function in a vertebral joint

Diagnosing Sciatica

You may have read that nearly 90 percent of all people diagnosed with Sciatica recover successfully without surgery. While there is some truth to that statement, it doesn’t mean these symptoms “definitely” will go away, or even that they “probably” will go away on their own.

Because the symptoms of Sciatica are similar to so many different back or lower body issues, it’s always best to seek a proper medical diagnosis before assuming your symptoms will disappear on their own. While that could possibly be the case for some people, because these symptoms could be related to a progressive degenerative medical condition, we caution against taking the risk of ignoring symptoms.

During your initial visit with Dr. Skaliy, he will begin with a few questions about your medical history as well as when, where and how your first noticed the pain or other symptoms. He will then conduct a physical examination to determine the location, level and extent of your symptoms. Depending on the location and extent of your symptoms, Dr. Skaliy may recommend diagnostic imaging tests including X-rays, MRIs or a CT scan to determine the precise cause of your symptoms.

Treating Sciatica

If you can catch Sciatica-related symptoms early, there are several steps you can take, at home, to halt or delay further progression of the conditions causing the symptoms.

● Daily stretching may relieve mild sciatica pain and prevent further symptoms