Sciatica Treatment in Baton Rouge
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or compressed, resulting in pain that may affect the lower back, buttock, and/or leg.
What Causes Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It runs the entire length of the leg, from buttock to bottom of the foot. It is formed by the joining of five separate nerve roots from the bottom of the spine. Trauma or health conditions such as herniated discs in the lower back can cause inflammation around and compression of the sciatic nerve and result in the painful symptoms of sciatica.
What are the Risk Factors for Sciatica?
Sciatica is often the result of an underlying condition. However, it can also be exacerbated by certain lifestyle factors. Each of the following may increase your likelihood of developing sciatica:
- Herniated disc in the lumbar spine
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine
- SI joint dysfunction
- Being overweight
- Having a job that requires extended periods of sitting or frequent bending and twisting motions
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
Sciatica does not affect all patients equally. Depending on the underlying cause of irritation and the specific nerve root impacted, symptoms can range from mild and occasional to severe and relentless. The most common symptoms include:
- Pain – Pain associated with sciatica is often described as sharp, shooting, or stabbing. However, it may also appear as a burning pain. This pain can affect the lower back, the buttock, and may even be felt down the back of the leg. This pain may improve or become worse based on position.
- Numbness, Tingling & Weakness – The back of the affected leg may experience numbness or tingling sensations. Weakness may occur in the leg, making it difficult to lift and giving a feeling of heaviness.
In addition to these symptoms, patients may experience specific signs based on the nerve root that is impacted.
What are the Types of Sciatica?
In order to classify sciatica, a physician must take into account the type and duration of symptoms. Based on this information, a patient may be diagnosed with one of the following four types of sciatica:
- Acute Sciatica – This form of sciatica has only endured for one to two months and is marked by mild to moderate discomfort that can be self-managed.
- Chronic Sciatica – This form of sciatica has lasted for longer than 2 months and is associated with levels of discomfort that are often not manageable on one’s own. Treatment from a medical specialist will likely be needed.
- Alternating Sciatica – This form of sciatica is uncommon. When present, it alternatively affects each leg.
- Bilateral Sciatica – This form of sciatica occurs when symptoms affect not just a single leg, but both legs simultaneously.
How is Sciatica Diagnosed?
When the symptoms of sciatica are present, the suspected diagnosis must be confirmed by a physician in order for a proper treatment plan to be determined. In order to reach this diagnosis, a doctor will begin with a medical history and physical examination. During this examination, he or she will check for specific areas of discomfort and positions in which pain worsens that are indicative of sciatica. Additionally, imaging tests such as an MRI can also provide insight into the underlying causes of pain such as a herniated disc.
Among the most effective diagnostic tools for sciatica are nerve blocks. These injections include an anesthetic that is used to numb the sciatic nerve at the root. If this process results in relief from pain the patient has been experiencing, sciatica can be safely assumed.
How is Sciatica Treated?
In most cases, conservative, non-surgical treatment methods will provide effective relief from sciatica. These approaches often include:
- Orthopedic physical therapy
- Medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and steroids
- Therapeutic injections such as epidural steroid injections and nerve root blocks
If pain and weakness from sciatica persists for a period of months and is not improving with more conservative treatments, surgical intervention may be warranted. This decision should be reached with the help of a qualified orthopedic spine specialist. The specific type of surgical approach that is used will be determined based on the physician, patient, and underlying cause of sciatica.