One of the more chronic forms of nerve pain stems from the sciatic nerve, a major pathway from the spine and down each leg. Often called sciatica, this isn’t a condition in itself, but rather symptoms of compression somewhere along the nerve’s route. There are many reasons why the sciatic nerve can become irritated, each causing similar sensations, discomfort, or pain. Since the symptoms are common, it’s easy to assume that your sciatic pain stems from a single, recurring issue.
For many, the problem causing sciatic nerve symptoms is temporary, and it will pass without permanent damage to the nerve. However, in rare cases, there are some very serious complications if the origin of nerve compression isn’t treated. Let’s examine sciatic nerve symptoms, their causes, and potential complications.
Chances are your sciatic nerve symptoms are similar to those of other people with the condition, but there’s actually a wide range of experiences, and your case could be unique to you. For some, the intensity of the sensation is mild — irritating but not debilitating. Others can be stopped cold by sciatic pain.
The location of symptoms can also vary widely. Lower back pain on one side, just above the buttock, is common. Usually, sciatica presents on one side, but it’s possible for both sides to be affected. Since the nerve runs the entire length of your leg down to your feet, you may experience sensations anywhere along the nerve path.
What you feel may range from tingling to prickling or burning, or it may be more like conventional pain, either dull or sharp. Any of these sensations can occur in combination.
Sciatica occurs due to compression somewhere along the length of the sciatic nerve, usually at the fifth lumbar/first sacral vertebrae. The precise point of compression seems to be the factor that causes the symptoms you experience, and this point changes with each condition causing the compression, as well as exactly where a condition causes that pinch.
The most common lower back problems that create sciatic nerve compression are:
Other, less common, causes may also press on the sciatic nerve, such as an injury to the spine or spinal tumor.
Many cases of sciatic pain resolve themselves with time and rest. Your body has remarkable recuperative powers, and often you need do nothing for the problem to clear. However, there are cases where improvement doesn’t occur, symptoms get worse, or permanent damage results.
Since there’s no way to distinguish the source problem, there’s no safe way to predict what will happen with your sciatic pain.
Not getting treatment for the cause of the nerve compression could result in permanent nerve damage. This typically causes pain sensations to become more severe, and things you’re doing now to deal with pain become less effective over time.
Sensation loss and weakness may become permanent. You may lose motor control as well, leading to mobility issues. Loss of sensation may also complicate other health conditions, such as diabetes, when a lack of foot sensation may lead to amputation.
Bladder and bowel incontinence may result from nerve compression, and while permanent damage isn’t usually likely in this case, it can’t be ruled out.
If you’ve been coping with sciatic nerve pain as an inevitable consequence of getting older, contact the CurePain office to arrange an appointment with me. I’ll start the investigation into the cause of your sciatica, as well as developing a pain management plan. You can live a life free of lower back pain.