Sciatic neuropathy — overview of the causes, symptoms and treatment options

Sciatic neuropathy refers to symptoms resulting from compression of or damage to the sciatic nerve, which is the longest and widest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve originates in the lower part of the back near the pelvis and travels down into both sides of the lower body. This nerve controls motor and sensory function in the buttocks, hip joints, legs, feet and toes.

When compressed or irritated, the sciatic nerve can cause immediate pain in the lower back, as well as radiating pain, numbness and tingling in the lower body. Neuropathy is a general term referring to the symptoms related to a damaged, irritated or compressed nerve, with sciatic neuropathy being specifically related to the sciatic nerve.

Causes and symptoms of sciatic neuropathy

Sciatic neuropathy is often caused by a degenerative spine condition like a herniated disc or an arthritic bone spur.

As we age, the discs and joints in the spine that cushion our vertebrae and allow for movement begin to deteriorate, making them less able to withstand the pressure they are placed under every day. This can cause disc material to become displaced or bone spurs to develop due to increased joint friction, which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve when it occurs in the lumbar (lower) spine.

The resulting symptoms of sciatic nerve compression, which are collectively referred to as sciatica, can remain localized, but they often follow the path of the nerve and radiate down the leg. Sciatica can have other causes, including irritation of the piriformis muscle in the buttocks and pregnancy.

Treating sciatic neuropathy

Many cases of sciatic neuropathy will improve over time with a course of nonsurgical treatment that may include pain medication, low-impact exercise, lifestyle changes, hot/cold therapy or spinal injections.

However, if your symptoms persist despite months of conservative treatment, your physician may suggest that you consider surgical treatment. At Laser Spine Institute, we treat sciatic pain by removing a small portion of the damaged disc or vertebra that is compressing the sciatic nerve and causing your pain. This is done through our minimally invasive decompression surgery and offers a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^

Patients with more severe conditions may require a minimally invasive stabilization procedure to remove the entire damaged disc and replace it with implants to stabilize the region of the spine.

For more information about the outpatient sciatic nerve treatments at Laser Spine Institute, call us today. We are happy to offer a no-cost MRI review* to help you find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.  

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