What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a term used to describe the presence of symptoms affecting the low back and legs. Often originating in the spine, sciatica can have several different causes including disc herniation, disc disease, piriformis syndrome or spinal stenosis.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of sciatica can include pain the buttock (usually only on one side) which often increases with sitting.  You may experience burning, tingling or searing pain in your leg.  Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot may also be present.

Symptoms are caused by an irritation or compression of one or more of the nerve branches in the lower back that join to form the larger sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve may also be compressed by muscles as it extends down the leg.

How is sciatica diagnosed?

To diagnose sciatica, your physician will review your health history and perform a physical examination.  They may also recommend imaging such as x-ray or MRI to assist in diagnosis.

How is sciatica treated?

Most people find relief from their sciatica with non-surgical methods.  These treatments include the use of pain medications, application of heat or ice, injections, exercise, physical therapy or other manual therapies.

In more severe cases where non-surgical methods do not bring relief, surgery may be considered to decompress the nerve.

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