Sciatica is a term for the pain and other symptoms caused by a herniated disk in the spinal cord. It refers to pain in the hip or lower back region that often radiates to the thigh or leg, accompanied by weakness, a tingling sensation, numbness or burning. In almost all cases, a herniated disk is the root of sciatica problems.
Causes of Sciatica
The pain and other sensations of sciatica come from the sciatic nerve. It’s the longest nerve in the body, and it travels from the lower back through the buttocks and down each leg. When a disk in the spine becomes herniated, its inner nucleus may protrude through the outer lining and press on the nerve or roots that lead to the sciatic nerve. Sometimes, a herniated disk is caused by an injury, but it can also be the result of aging. The pressure that the herniated disk puts on the sciatic nerve then leads directly to the pain and other symptoms that are referred to as sciatica.
Treatment for Sciatica
In many cases, sciatica goes away on its own with a few days of bed rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, gentle exercises, stretching and other physical therapy. It may take a few weeks for the pain to subside. In some cases, a doctor may inject cortisone into the spine to more directly relieve sciatica pain.
If the sciatica pain persists for three months or more despite attempts to relieve it, then surgery might be required. This surgery, called a laminotomy with discectomy, involves removing part of the herniated disk to prevent it from pressing on the sciatic nerve. As with any surgery, there is some rehabilitation involved before the person can return to full activity.
SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Chiropractic Association