Pinched sciatic nerve — causes and symptoms

A pinched sciatic nerve causes a group of extremely painful symptoms — known as sciatica — which can severely disrupt your life. The sciatic nerve is the largest in your body, running from the base of the spine down to the legs. When there is interference with a nerve this large, the number and degree of symptoms can be very large as well.

Because these symptoms can sometimes be associated with other conditions, like muscular problems, it is important to know the exact causes and symptoms of a pinched sciatic nerve. Once the condition is properly diagnosed, you and your doctor can develop a treatment plan to find the lasting pain relief you’re looking for.

Causes of a pinched sciatic nerve

A pinched nerve in the spine is usually the result of a degenerative spine condition. This is when the parts of the spine break down because of natural wear from a lifetime of movement.

For example, when a disc in the spine deteriorates enough, it can bulge or tear. This means the outer layer of the disc can tear under pressure, allowing the liquid nucleus of the disc to protrude into the spinal canal.

Due to the very tight confines of the spinal column, a disc or disc material moving even a little bit out of place can compress a nerve. Sciatic nerve compression generally happens in the lower back, where the nerve originates. The following are some of the main conditions that can cause a pinched sciatic nerve:

  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Bulging disc
  • Herniated disc
  • Facet disease

Symptoms of a pinched sciatic nerve

People dealing with pain from a pinched sciatic nerve will usually describe a sharp burning feeling instead of a dull, constant ache. Since the sciatic nerve is so large and travels through the entire lower body, the symptoms can be located in the hips, buttocks and both legs all the way down to the feet. It is common for sciatica to be located on one side of the body or the other, but in some cases it can be on both at once. Specific symptoms include:

  • Chronic burning pain
  • Weakness which interferes with walking and other movement
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

Treatment options

For many people, sciatica pain usually goes away after a round of conservative, nonsurgical treatments like hot and cold compresses, rest and physical therapy. Always consult your doctor to develop a plan that is best for your specific situation and condition.

However, if you have failed to experience relief from pain after weeks or months of conservative treatment, you may be a candidate for back surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about our minimally invasive, outpatient surgery that has helped more than 75,000 people find relief from neck and back pain to date.

Moderate cases of sciatica may be recommended for minimally invasive decompression surgery, which simply removes a small piece of the damaged spine to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. For the most severe disc conditions, our minimally invasive stabilization procedures are a more precise alternative to a traditional open fusion.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a review of your MRI report or CT scan to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.

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