Sciatica is a set of symptoms caused by compression and/or irritation of nerve roots.
Symptoms include pain in the lower back, buttock, and/or various parts of the leg and foot. The pain is sometimes severe. Less common symptoms include numbness, muscular weakness and difficulty moving or controlling the lower limbs. These are typically experienced on one side of the body.
One common cause of sciatica is a spinal disc herniation, also referred to as a slipped, herniated or bulging disc or pinched nerve. The spinal disc is a soft cushion that sits between each vertebrae of the spine. Herniation refers to a tear in the outer, fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc. When the tear causes the soft, central portion of the disc to bulge out, compressing the nerve roots, this is referred to as Disc Herniation (sciatica) .
Disc Herniation or sciatica can be caused by general wear and tear or traumatic injury. Heavy lifting and improper lifting technique (bending from the waist) can also lead to disc herniations.
Diagnosis of Disc Herniation or sciatica is based on a complete medical and symptom history and physical examination. Treatment is based on the severity and duration of symptoms. Initial treatment is almost always non-surgical, and most people experience a full recovery within the first few weeks. If the symptoms continue and conservative management has not been helpful, surgical solutions are sometimes offered.
Treatments can involve the following:
- Epidural steroid injections
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Physical therapy
- Surgical decompression of the disc (microdiscectomy)