Signs and Symptoms of Sciatica
The symptoms related with sciatica can be described as dull, sharp, burning, tingling, and shooting pain. The pain often runs from the lower back into the buttock, and commonly affects the back or side of the thigh or lower leg. The pain can also continue downward affecting the feet. A person can also experience weakness or numbness when trying to move the leg or foot. Low back pain is usually less severe than the leg pain that can be present, but it is rare to be effected with permanent nerve damage from sciatica. Most people begin to feel better within two weeks to a few months.
Causes of Sciatic
There can be an underlying disorder causing the sciatica symptoms. These can include the following:
• Herniated Disc: the most common cause of sciatica; can be caused by sudden twisting.
• Degenerative Disc Disease: this disorder can be related to aging; can cause disc weakness, which can lead to a herniated disc.
• Lumbar Sacral Stenosis: results from the sciatic nerve becoming impinged because of the narrowing of neural passageways. The narrowing of the neural passageways can be caused by facet arthritis or disc degeneration.
• Isthmic Spondylolisthesis: nerve root compression caused by a slipped disc.
• Piriformis Syndrome: the sciatic nerve runs under the piriformis muscles in the buttocks. The sciatic nerve can become irritated and cause sciatica symptoms.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
When experiencing symptoms it is important to consult a physician to determine the underlying causes for the pain and other symptoms. The physician will then conduct a physical exam and medical history. If necessary, x-rays, films, CAT scans, MRI scans, or electromyograms will be conducted to identify further causes of sciatica.
Treatment of Sciatica
Because sciatica is often caused by irritation, a brief period of rest and avoiding certain activities while taking anti-inflammatory medication is recommended. If pain persists, physical therapy can become an alternative, along with hamstring and piriformis stretching. Strengthening exercises of the lower back and lower body is important in eliminating persisting symptoms and preventing further episodes. If the cause of sciatica is caused by an underlying condition, surgery can be an option.
Kori Beck was a participant in the Hughston Athletic Training Fellowship Program, Columbus, Georgia, from 2006-2007. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Athletic Training from The University of Northern Iowa.