The sciatic nerves of the body are located within the buttocks and provide sensation and motor function to the legs. When one or more of these nerves becomes compressed, patients will develop feelings of pain, numbness and potentially weakness that is localized at the nerve and radiates out to these surrounding areas.
Compression of a sciatic nerve can also result in a loss of function in the legs and a feeling of weakness or numbness within them. These are said to be symptoms of sciatica, which is only a term given to the symptoms.
What causes Sciatica (Radiculopathy)?
The most common reason behind the presence of this condition is simply compression of the sciatic nerve due to a herniated disc in the lower lumbar spine.
For chronic pain, a spinal cord stimulator may be an excellent last resort.
Sciatica may also occur from a degenerative disc that has inflammation and is chemically irritating the adjacent nerve roots. Overgrowth of bone and soft tissue due to spinal arthritis may pinch one or multiple nerve roots and cause sciatica – this is termed spinal stenosis.
The term radiculopathy is more generic and refers to symptoms of a pinched nerve in general. So this may refer to a problem in the neck along with the low back where a nerve is compressed.
The symptoms of Sciatica (Radiculopathy)
The symptom experienced most by patients is a feeling of pain that originates in the buttocks and shoots down the thighs and legs. Many patients report that this pain feels like being stabbed in the rear, with the pain worsening if the patient is in a seated position. Depending on which nerve is compressed, there may be additional symptoms present.
If the compressed nerve is linked to the lower extremities, there may a loss of function in the legs coupled with a feeling of burning, or pins and needles. Frequent leg cramps are also present for those patients. If it is a lumbar sciatic nerve is compressed, the pain will originate in the lower back and the shooting pain will be felt in the buttocks and thighs.
How is Sciatica (Radiculopathy) diagnosed?
When sciatica symptoms become clinically diagnosed, the symptoms take on the name of radiculopathy. For instance, if the symptoms are present in the lumbar spine, the proper diagnosis will be called lumbar radiculopathy. Diagnosis of sciatica is achieved through the combined use of physical examination, an evaluation of the patient’s medical history, and neurological testing.
Compressed nerves are searched for via imaging techniques, with the primary technique being an MRI. These will only confirm the presence of a compressed nerve. In some cases, further testing will be required in order to locate and diagnose the root cause of nerve compression. This may include a diagnostic nerve root block, or a nerve conduction study/EMG.
Treatment options for Sciatica (Radiculopathy)
Treatment for sciatica will be largely based on the underlying cause. The age of the patient, the severity of the symptoms, and what treatment options have been attempted before will also be contributing factors in the development of a treatment plan for the patient.
Over 95% of patients with sciatica or radiculopathy are able to avoid surgery and obtain successful pain relief. The Board Certified San Antonio pain management doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists offer customized treatment options for the best results.
Most insurance is accepted, call Texas Pain Network today at (210) 202-4030!