Contrary to what many believe, sciatica isn’t a single condition, but a set of symptoms caused by the irritation of the large sciatic nerve in your lower back. This means that treating sciatica may be different from one person to the next, depending upon what’s causing the problem in the first place.
Here at Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management, our team of spinal experts routinely helps patients overcome the debilitating pain that’s often associated with sciatica. While our approach may be similar across the board, successfully treating sciatica depends on a number of factors, especially properly addressing the underlying cause of your sciatica.
Sciatica at a glance
Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. It begins in your lower back and branches out and travels down each of your legs. When the nerve is irritated or compressed in your lower back, it can lead to both local symptoms, as well as those we call lumbar radiculopathy, which means pain that travels along the nerve and down into one of your legs.
While we keep labeling the primary symptom of sciatica as pain, the lumbar radiculopathy that is the hallmark of sciatica can also lead to numbness and tingling down one of your legs, as well as muscle weakness.
There are many roads that lead to sciatica, including:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Bone spurs
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
More often than not, sciatica develops when one of your lumbar discs herniates or bulges, allowing part of the internal disc tissue to leak out of its space and compress your sciatic nerve.
Our primary goal when it comes to treating sciatica is to first relieve your symptoms, which we can typically accomplish through:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Pain-relieving medications
- Ice and heat therapies
- Nerve blocks
- Epidural injections
We prefer to start out conservatively with rest and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as ice and heat therapies. If your sciatica continues to cause problems after a few weeks, we may get more aggressive with spinal injections that tackle the pain.
Is sciatica fixable?
The answer to this question is maybe. The treatments we list above are highly effective at relieving your symptoms, but our goal is to make sure we also address the underlying cause of your sciatica to prevent a recurrence.
For example, if degenerative disc disease begins to set in, your discs become increasingly vulnerable to herniation, which can lead to sciatica. If you’re also carrying extra pounds, this can greatly exacerbate the problem and put you more at risk of sciatica.
To treat the above example, our first recommendation is to lose weight, as well as engage in physical therapy to strengthen the supporting tissues in your back to take the pressure off of your discs.
In another example, if you have spinal stenosis (a narrowing of your spinal canal), we need to prevent the stenosis from progressing as best we can and avoid the complications of this condition, like sciatica. Here again, physical therapy goes a long way.
The bottom line is that it’s impossible to say whether sciatica is fixable, but there are plenty of steps we can take to address your current sciatica and prevent the problem from recurring. To learn more, contact one of our offices in Hartsdale or Staten Island, New York.