Sciatica is pain related to the sciatic nerve, which is a thick nerve that runs from the lower back and forks into both legs and feet. Sciatica is often described as a stabbing, shooting, or shocking pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg, usually on a single side of the body. The pain may be worsened by sitting and is sometimes accompanied by numbness, tingling, weakness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot.
Sciatica develops when pressure is put on one or more nerve roots in the lumbar spine of the lower back. This compression of the nerve(s) is called radiculopathy, and is most often caused by:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal
- Degenerative disc disease – the breakdown of discs, which can leak and press on nerves
- Spondylolisthesis – a structural deformity that occurs when one vertebra slips forward over another one
- Bone spurs
Most people recover from sciatica, many of them without ever seeking medical attention. In cases where the symptoms are severe or long-lasting, sciatica can usually be treated with:
- Anti-inflammatories and pain medication
- Muscle relaxants
- Physical therapy
- Aqua therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Massage therapy
If you continue to experience symptoms after exhausting conservative treatments, surgery may be advised. The surgical procedure for treating sciatica usually entails a laminotomy with a discectomy, or a removal of part of the lamina and the disc responsible for the irritation.