What is Sciatica? How do we treat it?

What is sciatica? How is it treated? Basically sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve that supplies your buttocks, hip, and lower limb becomes injured - usually due to pressure put on it due to changes in the anatomy of your body. The sciatic nerve is formed from the last two lumbar nerves and the first three sacral nerves that leave the openings in the side of the sacrum. Once formed, this sciatic nerve and its main branches travel down the front and back of your leg. This nerve provides us with the ability to move our leg and feel the environment around us. The sciatic nerve may be affected due to a decrease in the size of the openings the spinal nerves leave the spine, as might occur with conditions such as spinal stenosis, lumbar disc herniation, and ruptured discs. The structural integrity of the sciatic nerve may be affected by structures outside the spine, as might occur with conditions such as Piriformis syndrome and lumbosacral strain. Treating this condition correctly will involve correctly identifying where the entrapment of the nerve has occurred and selecting an appropriate treatment for the cause of the pressure or irritation on the nerve.

What are the symptoms of sciatica? Patients become well aware of the symptoms of sciatica when they experience leg pain that is either sharp or a dull ache. This pain and discomfort may be felt where the nerve has become compressed, or it may radiate throughout the path of the nerve. If the pain generator is close to the spine, the pain may radiate across the back and down the leg.

This pain may be sudden or progressive, constant or intermittent. Besides pain, patients may experience other symptoms related to the disruption of the functioning of the nerve. Other symptoms patients describe include pain that is burning, electrical, stabbing, or sharp. The patient may experience changes in sensation and changes in strength of the affected leg. In many cases, the pain of sciatica is accompanied by achiness, weakness, tingling, and numbness.

Here's a preliminary look at some of the causes of sciatica and the available treatments.

Spinal Stenosis: The bones of our body, including the vertebral bones, change throughout our lifetime in both size and shape. Though these bones are solid, and make up the framework our out body, that is malleable structures that are constantly giving up minerals to the bloodstream and absorbing them. When we are young and healthy, the give and take of minerals to the bones, from the body, and to the body, is in good balance, and density of the bones remains strong, for people with a healthy body and spine. As we get older, the bones may become weaker and prone to fracture. These bones may thicken, in some cases affecting the structures around them. In some cases, the bones may thicken to the point that they constrict the spinal nerves within the spinal canal, and those that leave the spine.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. As we become older, the bones may become injured, and new bone is deposited in these same areas. These new deposits of bone are known as osteophytes (bone spurs) and their formation may narrow the size of the spinal canal. Because the spinal nerves that give rise to the sciatic nerve pass through the spinal canal, this constriction of the spinal canal may negatively affect its health. There is a gradual onset of pain in the lumbar region. The pain may radiate into the buttocks and sometimes down the legs.

Various types of activities or inactivity may bring on the symptoms of sciatica, or increase the intensity of the symptoms you persistently feel. Certain factors that may make this condition worse include climbing stairs, walking, prolonged standing, and exercise. Many people with sciatic pain related to spinal stenosis may only be able to walk short distances before the intensity of symptoms makes it hard to keep going. Sometimes, the discomfort may be lessened by sitting or rest. In order to diagnose spinal stenosis, doctors will obtain a thorough medical history and perform a physical exam.

Further medical testing that is done to diagnose spinal stenosis includes the CT Scan with myelogram, and MRI.