How Sciatica Develops as the Result of a Herniated Disc

What is Sciatica

Sciatica is the term for the painful symptoms you experience if the sciatic nerve — the largest in the body — becomes compressed or pinched in the lower back. A herniated disc is a very common cause of sciatica; this is when the outer wall of a spinal disc ruptures, leaking the soft inner material out into the spinal canal. If any extruded disc material presses on a nerve in the spine —like the sciatic nerve — it causes many of the symptoms that make life so difficult for people with these conditions.

Common Symptoms of Sciatica

The sciatic nerve travels down into both sides of the lower body, starting in the hips and legs and going all the way to the feet. Sciatica from a herniated disc will usually happen on one side of the body or the other since the disc material pinches only a portion of the nerve. Specific symptoms include:

  • Pain or soreness in the lower half of the body, ranging from the buttocks to the back of the legs to the soles of the feet
  • Muscle weakness in the leg, causing difficulty walking
  • A tingling sensation or numbness in the feet
  • The feeling of pins and needles or burning

If these symptoms are accompanied by extreme weakness or incontinence, this could be from cauda equina syndrome. This is a spinal condition that requires immediate medical attention. The best way to correctly diagnose the underlying cause of sciatica is to visit a physician for a full examination. An MRI or CT scan may be ordered to confirm a preliminary diagnosis.

Treating a Herniated Disc

Treatment options for a herniated disc range from bed rest and physical therapy to medication and lumbar injections. The good news is that you can often find meaningful pain relief from conservative, nonsurgical treatments such as these. Continue to partner with your doctor to develop the best plan once you’ve been diagnosed. In some cases, multiple months of these methods do not provide the relief needed to regain a full, active life. If this is the case, your doctor or spine specialist may start talking to you about surgery at this point.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact our team at BEST Health System today. We are dedicated to helping patients get back to a healthy a fulfilled lifestyle.