What is sciatica?
BayCare Clinic Neurological Surgeons treats conditions for which sciatica – pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in a leg on one side of the body – is a symptom. Sciatica is not a medical condition by itself.
Sciatica occurs when there is pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve, which branches out from the lower back. The sciatic nerve controls muscles in the back of the knee and lower leg and provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg and the sole of the foot.
Sciatica is most often a symptom of a herniated disk that is pressing on a nerve root. Sciatica also can be a symptom of spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, a pelvic injury or fracture, or tumors. All those conditions usually require treatment.
Sciatica also is associated with low back pain or lumbar radiculopathy. Issues with the sciatic nerve also are known as neuropathy and sciatic nerve dysfunction.
Sciatica is identified via a physical exam, or by imaging tests if necessary.
In some cases, sciatica clears up on its own. Otherwise, treatment depends on the cause of the sciatica. It may include exercises, medication or surgery. We offer lumbar microdiscectomy, a minimally invasive procedure, to treat lumbar radiculopathy.
Risk factors for sciatica
Risk factors for sciatica include:
- Age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disk and bone spurs, are the most common cause of sciatica.
- Excess body weight increases stress on the spine and can contribute to spinal changes that trigger sciatica.
- Continuous twisting, carrying heavy loads or driving a vehicle for long periods may play a role in sciatica.
- Prolonged sitting. People who sit for long periods or do little physical activity are more likely to develop sciatica than active people.
- This condition increases the risk of nerve damage.