Sciatica Explained: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Sciatica pain is one of the most frequent conditions we treat at our Easley pain center. Statistic data show that almost 40% of adults in the US will experience this condition in one form or another during their lifetime.

Given its prevalence, we believe that we should discuss sciatica in detail so that you know how to recognize its symptoms and seek medical assistance. Here are the most important facts you need to know.

Contact us today to book an appointment at any of our South Carolina offices.

What Exactly Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is the pain you experience due to injury or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Although it is used in the singular, we are actually talking about two nerves. They start at the bottom of the spine and branch out in two directions through the buttocks and down the legs.

Each sciatic nerve ends at the knees, where it branches out into many other nerves that control the movements in your lower leg, foot, and toes. This is not only the longest, but also the thickest nerve in the body – 2 cm (0.8 inch).

Given this complex branching, any injury to a nerve connecting with the main sciatic nerve will produce pain and the associated symptoms of sciatica.

The Main Causes of Sciatica

Older adults may develop sciatica as a result of the normal wear and tear of the body. However, in younger people, it may be triggered by:

  • A trauma (car injury, fall, sports injury)
  • A herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tumors, cysts, and other growths
  • Degenerative disc disease.

Pregnant women may also develop sciatica in the third trimester, as the size and weight of the fetus put pressure on the nerves in the pelvic area and lower back.

Risk Factors for Developing Sciatica

The doctors at our Easley pain center know that several lifestyle-related factors may trigger the onset of sciatica. The most important are:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor technique for lifting weights
  • Having insufficient core strength in the muscles in the back and abdomen
  • Having type 2 diabetes.

irritation of the sciatic nerve causes intense pain

Also, people who suffered a previous injury to the sciatic nerve are at a higher risk of developing sciatica in the future.

The Most Common Symptoms of Sciatica

Sciatica manifests itself through a set of specific symptoms:

  • Pain that runs down the leg on the affected side. Patients describe sciatica pain as a burning sensation or an electrical shock.
  • The sensation of pins and needles or tingling in the affected leg is similar to when one leg falls asleep.
  • Numbness in the skin on the affected buttock or leg.
  • Muscle weakness, which may not allow the person to support their weight on the affected leg.

You should not ignore any of these symptoms and seek medical care as soon as possible. Sciatica can be treated successfully. However, if you leave it untreated for a long time, you risk developing:

  • Chronic pain
  • Foot drop – the inability to walk properly
  • Permanent nerve damage.

Treatment Options for Sciatica

The good news is that, if you see a doctor at our Easley pain center as soon as you start experiencing symptoms, you can make a full recovery with minimally invasive treatments. Sciatica pain and the associated symptoms respond well to treatments such as:

  • Radiofrequency ablation – a technique that uses heat to reduce pain by helping eliminate the transmission of pain signals to the brain
  • Nerve blocks – localized injections with steroids in the lower back to reduce pain
  • Chiropractic adjustments – manipulations of the spine that can resolve a herniated disc or pinched nerve.

If your condition is more severe, we can resort to more complex treatments, such as kyphoplasty, which involves injecting a special cement-like material to stabilize and strengthen the affected part of your spine.

Patients who suffer from chronic pain in the early stages may benefit from having a spinal cord stimulator implanted under the skin. The stimulator sends a mild electric current to the spinal cord, blocking the pain signals.

Our Easley Pain Center Can Help You Find Relief from Sciatica!

Sciatica will not go away by itself. Your best option is to get diagnosed and start the treatment as soon as possible after you start experiencing symptoms.

At Carolina Spine & Pain Centers, we use modern and proven techniques and therapies that help patients heal and live a pain-free life. Call us now at 864-513-8950 to schedule an initial appointment at our Easley pain center or one of our other South Carolina locations!