Your sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in your body. Rooted in your lumbar spine, the vertebrae of your lower back, this major nerve extends through your hips, buttocks, and down each leg, giving you the ability to feel and control your lower body. Sciatic nerve pain, also known as sciatica, is a common problem that can have a wide range of causes. Pain medicine specialist Dr. David Wu provides complete care for sciatica patients at his practice in Torrance, California. He welcomes patients from the South Bay and the greater Los Angeles areas. Call or request your appointment online today.
Sciatica often starts as discomfort or pain in your lower back, but it can easily become the kind of debilitating pain that radiates down one of your legs. Sciatica is usually the result of something compressing the sciatic nerve where it’s rooted to your spine. Common causes of sciatic nerve impingement and pain include:
Disc problems: A bulging or ruptured intervertebral disc in your lumbar spine can put pressure on your sciatic nerve.
Spinal stenosis: A narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar spine, a condition that sometimes comes with age, can push on the nerve.
Spinal compression or misalignment: Having lower-back vertebrae that are compressed or out of alignment, either due to poor posture or trauma, can crowd the sciatic nerve root.
Piriformis syndrome: Your piriformis muscle is situated directly over your sciatic nerve; when it becomes too tight or spasms, it can put direct pressure on the nerve.
Traumatic injury: Any injury along the nerve’s path, such as a pelvic fracture, may cause sciatica.
The telltale sign of sciatica is pain that extends from your lower back down into your buttock, through the back of your thigh, into your calf, and even as far as your foot. Although it’s possible to experience sciatic nerve pain in both legs simultaneously, it usually affects only one side of your body at a time.
Sciatic nerve pain may feel like a mild burning sensation or a sharp, electric-like jolt. While you may experience this pain at an isolated point along the path of the nerve, you’re more likely to feel radiating pain that follows an uninterrupted path.
Sciatica typically worsens following long periods of sitting or standing. In more severe cases, sciatic nerve pain can be triggered or exacerbated by minor movements like reaching or sneezing.
Although sciatic nerve pain often begins gradually, it usually intensifies over time. Left untreated, it may become a long-term problem or even a permanent one.
Fortunately, sciatica generally responds well to a combination of noninvasive approaches, including over-the-counter pain relievers, physical therapy, massage therapy, and epidural steroid injections.
Epidural steroid injections contain a steroid and an anesthetic. When Dr. Wu injects this medicine into the epidural space surrounding your spinal cord, it reduces swelling and inflammation of the nerves within that space.
When your spinal nerves are under less pressure from the surrounding tissues, you’ll find relief from back pain and its associated symptoms, including sciatica.