What is Sciatica?

Sciatica describes a collection of symptoms that can arise with sciatic nerve compression. This nerve is the largest and longest in the body, running from the base of the spine and down through both legs.

Sciatic nerve compression can lead to pain that begins in the lower back and moves through the buttocks, legs, and feet. It is also characterized by other symptoms like burning, cramping, muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness. Sciatica generally occurs on one side of the body, but it can affect both sides. 

The sciatic nerve is about an inch wide and consists of multiple nerve bundles. Sciatica is produced when this nerve is being compressed or pinched. Compression is often caused by a herniated disc on a bone spur, most commonly in the area where the nerve passes out of the spinal column in the lumbar (lower) region of the back. 

Most sciatica treatment methods are nonsurgical. These methods include brief periods of rest, specialized exercises and stretching, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, in some cases, these conservative treatments only provide temporary relief, leading some patients to explore surgery as an option. 

Today, sciatica can be addressed if you are a candidate for the minimally invasive spine procedures offered at BEST Health System. In many cases, these outpatient procedures render highly invasive open back surgeries unnecessary. 

Sciatica Causes

Sciatica, a form of nerve dysfunction, occurs when there is compression on, or damage applied to, the sciatic nerve. Ther nerve innervates the muscles behind the knee and lower leg. It provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and the sole of the foot. 

Sciatica arises most frequently due to pressure being placed on the sciatic nerve. This can be caused by a degenerative spine condition such as a herniated, bulging, or protruding disc, or a bone spur. The condition often is diagnosed as radiculopathy, meaning the damaged disc or excess growth of bone is positioned in such a way that it places pressure on the nerve root. 

Sciatica might also be caused by an injury, including a fracture of the pelvis or trauma to the buttocks or thigh. Another factor could be prolonged external pressure on the nerve, and pressure on the nerve from nearby anatomical structures, including certain muscles. 

Sciatica might also arise in cases of nerve entrapment, which entails pressure on the nerve where it passes through an opening (foramen) between two vertebrae to exit the spinal column. The underlying cause of the symptoms is the prevention of the passage of proper motor and sensory impulses along the length of the nerve. 

Diseases that affect the entire body, such as diabetes, can damage many different nerves, including the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve also may be harmed by pressure from a tumor, abscess, or by bleeding in the pelvis. 

Sciatica should be treated as soon as possible. Any condition that causes nerve damage could lead to further issues down the road. 

Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica symptoms include sensation changes, numbness, tingling, burning, and pain in the buttocks, down the back of the legs, and into the sole of the feet. Sciatica can also cause weakness in the legs, knees, and feet. In severe cases, it can cause a loss of mobility. Most of the time, these sciatica symptoms will affect one side of the body, but it can affect both.

Sciatica Treatment

Traditionally, the only surgical option for addressing sciatica was open back surgery. However, modern advancements have made it possible to follow a minimally invasive approach, which allows for faster recovery times and smaller incisions. BEST Health System is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgeries, helping thousands of patients receive the care they deserve. 

The procedures we offer – discectomy, foraminotomy, and laminotomy – are for patients with a herniated disc, bulging disc, or bone spur that is pressing on the sciatic nerve and causing the symptoms of sciatica. By removing or shrinking the herniated or bulging disc with a laser, we can decompress the nerve. 

After excess disc and bone material are removed, the sciatica symptoms generally disappear. Once one of our board-certified surgeons has completed the procedure, the patient will be able to leave our surgery center the same day. The patient then returns the following day for a postoperative visit.

Although a diagnosis of sciatica may seem overwhelming, this condition is more common than you might think. Harvard Health reported that 40% of individuals will develop sciatica at some point in their life. 

BEST Health System

Luckily, there are plenty of sciatica treatments available. If you are interested in finding more information about the therapies and surgeries available to you, contact BEST today. Our team is dedicated to finding patients the most effective, least invasive sciatica treatment option. The BEST is yet to come.