Sciatica is the term used to refer to either a mild, dull, or sharp pain that occurs along your sciatic nerve, a nerve which travels from your lower back to your leg. To learn more about your body’s longest nerve.
Sciatica causes range from the most common cause, a herniated disc, to the rarest, a spinal or sciatic nerve tumor.
Your spinal vertebrae are cushioned by spongy discs, which, when healthy, act as shock absorbers when you move. Over time, these discs can deteriorate due to wear and tear or they can become damaged leading to a bulge or tear. A herniated disc causes sciatica by pressing on nerve roots, causing pain, numbness and weakness beginning in the lower back and radiating down one leg.
Other sciatica causes include degenerative disc disease, pelvic injury or fracture, Piriformis Syndrome, spinal stenosis, Spondylolisthesis, a sciatic nerve tumor, and spinal tumors.
Regardless of the cause of sciatica, the associated effects usually respond to self-care measures (cold and hot packs, over-the-counter analgesics) or physical therapy, with relief typically occurring within four to eight weeks. Surgery is used as a last resort for patients whose pain is severe.
If you have pain or numbness in your lower back or leg area and think it may be due to any of the above sciatica causes, contact your healthcare provider. He or she will be able to arrive at a sciatica diagnosis through a neuromuscular exam, X-ray, and/or MRI.