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Oakland Spine News

Questions About Sciatica Answered

What is Sciatica?
Back injury doctors will tell you that sciatica is a condition in which pain originating from the low back or buttock area travels down one or both legs. The pain of sciatica has been described as achy, sharp, tingling, or has sometimes been likened to electric shocks. Pain can be mild, moderate or severe, infrequent or constant, depending on the degree of nerve involvement.

What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is usually caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, a large nerve originating at the base of the spine. This compression can be caused by subluxations (misalignment) of the lower spine; herniated or bulging discs; pregnancy and childbirth (when pelvic bones shift and the tissues surrounding them are softer and more movable); tumors or diabetes.

Sciatica is often a result of Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis muscle is located in the lower spine and is involved in hip rotation. The sciatic nerve is located directly beneath the piriformis muscle, so any injury or disorder affecting this muscle can result in pinching of the sciatic nerve.

How Does a Back Pain Specialist Treat Sciatica?
Initially the doctor will need to accurately diagnose the cause of a patient’s sciatica. This involves taking the patient’s medical history, conducting a thorough physical and neurological examination and employing various diagnostic tests, including X-ray, MRI, CT scans and, if needed nerve testing including electromyography. In most cases, sciatica can be treated non-surgically and non-invasively.

Therapy will be customized based on the most effective way for the patient’s body to begin to heal itself, and may include physical therapy, ice/cold therapy, electrical stimulation (TENS), and spinal manipulation. Advanced therapies such as spinal decompression and deep tissue medical laser therapy can also create dramatic results.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.