Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Sciatica is pain that travels along the sciatic nerve’s path. This nerve travels from your lower back through your hips and buttocks down both legs. In most cases, sciatica is caused by pressure exerted on the nerve by an overgrown bone or herniated disc. The result is pain, inflammation, and some numbness in one leg, which can be severe but tends to resolve within weeks with treatment. More severe cases that cause bladder and bowel changes or leg weakness may require surgery. Below, we review this condition and tell you how a board certified pain management physician Arlington, VA can help.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Sciatica pain can appear anywhere along the pathway of the sciatic nerve but is more likely to follow the path from your back to the buttock, thigh, and calf. It can range from a mild ache to a sharp burning sensation. Other times, it can feel like an electric shock or jolt and can get worse when you sneeze, cough, or sit for a long time. The pain often affects one side of the body and may be accompanied by muscle weakness, tingling, or numbness in the foot or leg. Sometimes, you will experience numbness in one part of the leg and pain in another. The standard features of this condition are:

  • Posture-induced symptoms
  • Pain
  • Symptoms on one side of the body
  • Numbness

Complications of Sciatica

The sciatic nerve often recovers from pinching on its own, even without treatment. However, when the damage is extensive, you may experience the following complications:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Weakness or loss of feeling in the affected leg

When Should You See a Doctor?

Mild sciatica should resolve on its own over time but you should seek medical help if relief measures taken at home fail to alleviate your symptoms. You should also call your doctor if your sciatica pain lasts longer than a week, gets worse with time, or is severe. Also, seek immediate help for:

  • Difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels
  • Sciatica pain that follows a violent injury
  • Sudden severe pain in the leg or lower back
  • Sudden severe muscle weakness or numbness

What Are the Treatment Options for Sciatica?

While mild sciatica may resolve on its own, severe sciatica could get worse with time if you do not get medical help. The first step is to set up an appointment with your physician to discuss your symptoms and perform diagnostic tests. Your doctor will then develop a treatment plan that addresses the underlying cause of your sciatica and alleviates your discomfort. Common sciatica treatments include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Heat and cold therapies
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Physical exercises to increase strength in and stretch your lower back

If non-invasive treatment options are unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend non-surgical injection therapies like selective nerve root block and caudal epidural steroid injection.

Sciatica pain often comes and goes but when it is severe, it can be debilitating and lower your quality of life. Interventional Pain and Regenerative Medicine Specialists, John Huffman, MD, Talal Ghazal, MD, and their team offer expert diagnostics and innovative treatments for this condition. Their interventions are aimed at alleviating your discomfort and restoring function. Call their Arlington office today to discuss your sciatica symptoms and learn more about the available treatments.


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