Spinal stenosis and sciatica: How are these conditions different?

It can be hard to tell the difference between spinal stenosis and sciatica, but there are some clear differences between symptoms and treatment options. Learn more in this article from Laser Spine Institute.

Six differences and facts about spinal stenosis and sciatica

  1. What is spinal stenosis? Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal that houses the spinal cord and the nerve roots. Spinal stenosis typically occurs in the lower back or the neck region of the spine as these areas are flexible and are used to bending and moving. Spinal stenosis can compress the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.
  2. What is sciatica? Sciatica is a term that describes symptoms that can arise when the sciatic nerve is compressed. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, running from the base of the spine all the way down and through both legs. Sciatica pain can start in the lower back and radiate down through the buttocks, to the thighs, legs and feet. Sciatica symptoms are typically experienced on one side of the body, but can happen on both sides, and include pain, burning, cramping, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.
  3. What causes spinal stenosis? A bulging disc, a herniated disc, the natural aging process, bone spurs, spondylolisthesis or any other degenerative spine condition can cause spinal stenosis.
  4. What causes sciatica? Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or there is damage to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is most frequently caused by a degenerative spine condition just like spinal stenosis. Sciatica can also be caused by injury or trauma.
  5. How do you treat spinal stenosis and sciatica? Both conditions are typically treated with conservative options such as rest, pain medication, exercise and stretching, physical therapy, steroid injections and chiropractic care. If conservative options fail to control symptoms after a few months, surgery is the next treatment option in order to avoid permanent nerve or muscle damage.
  6. What are the surgical options for spinal stenosis treatment and sciatica treatment? If conservative options have been unsuccessful, surgery can help to relieve your pain. You have the choice of traditional open spine surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery. Minimally invasive spine surgery has a shorter recovery period and less risk of infection.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* so we can help determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive surgeries. We offer a streamlined patient experience allowing you to return to your life and the things you enjoy as quickly as possible. Find out more about spinal stenosis treatment, sciatica treatment and how Laser Spine Institute can help relieve your pain.

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