Many people use the term sciatica interchangeably with lower back pain. However, sciatica is actually a collection of symptoms that are caused by sciatic nerve compression, causing far more problems than low back pain. In fact, it’s a common cause of pain in the legs, thighs, and buttocks.
At McNulty Spine, our expert orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist, Patrick S. McNulty, MD, helps patients from throughout Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, recover from sciatica and other painful spinal problems with state-of-the-art procedures ranging from spinal injections to surgery.
Sciatica includes a variety of symptoms in addition to low back pain, such as:
- Sharp pain that travels down your buttocks and legs
- Electric jolts in your buttocks and thighs
- Numbness and tingling in your buttocks and thighs
- Muscle weakness in your legs
- Lost balance
Your symptoms can range in severity from mild to debilitatingly severe. Also, depending on the location of your sciatic nerve compression, you might have sciatica symptoms on one or both sides of your body.
Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It starts where five nerve roots join together in your lower back. Your sciatic nerve extends down toward your buttocks, where it splits to reach down the back of each of your legs, ending near your ankles.
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc in your lower spine. Herniated discs develop when the soft gel interior of a spinal disc pushes out of its rubbery shell. There’s very little space in your spine, so the bulging disc is likely to compress a nerve and cause local and radiating symptoms.
You might also have degenerating tissue in your spine that compresses your sciatic nerve. Additionally, spinal stenosis in your lumbar spine can cause sciatica. Stenosis occurs when your spinal canal becomes narrow.
When to talk to a doctor about sciatica
If you have low back pain or other sciatica symptoms that don’t subside after a couple of days of rest, give us a call to schedule an appointment with Dr. McNulty. Additionally, if you develop sudden and severe sciatica symptoms, or if your pain follows a sports or automobile accident, give us a call right away.
Dr. McNulty provides expert diagnosis and customized treatment for sciatica. Depending on your condition and its cause, he might teach you stretches to practice at home that relieve your symptoms and alleviate the nerve compression. He might also provide a spinal injection to deliver powerful anti-inflammatory medication directly into your spine to reduce swelling.
In severe cases, Dr. McNulty can perform spine surgeries like laminectomies to repair or remove the herniated disc that’s compressing your sciatic nerve. However, he typically tries noninvasive treatments before recommending surgery.
If you have sciatica symptoms that are interfering with your life, give us a call or make an appointment online today. Sciatica is often easily treated with exercise and stretches — don’t suffer needlessly.