The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body. It starts in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine and travels down the leg to the foot. The nerve has the important job of supplying the thighs, lower legs, and feet with nervous system intervention. When the nerve is compressed or pinched at the vertebral level, a symptom known as sciatica may occur.
Sciatica is typically only experienced on one side of the body. It presents in the buttocks, back of the thigh, calf, and/or feet as a burning, tingling, and/or numbing pain. Weakness may also present. Because a detailed description of symptoms gives an spine specialist important clues regarding their cause, patients are encouraged to monitor their symptoms and make notes when they present.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica may be caused by a variety of lower back conditions. The three most common include the following:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis. The lumbar vertebrae perfectly align to form a canal that the spinal cord travels through. Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when the canal narrows and compresses the cord.
- Lumbar disc herniation. Between each lumbar vertebra lie intervertebral discs. The discs protect the vertebrae by acting as load distributing cushions or “shock absorbers”. When a disc herniates or slips, it may protrude into the spinal canal and compress or pinch the spinal cord.
- Degenerative disc disease. A chronic condition characterized by the degeneration of vertebral bone and soft tissue due to aging processes. Degenerative disc disease is typically a precursor to lumbar spinal stenosis or a lumbar disc herniation.
The only way for patients to definitely determine the cause of their sciatic pain is to see a Neurosurgeon. During an appointment, a medical history is taken, a physical exam is performed, and medical imaging studies (including x-rays, MRIs, and possibly CT scans) are ordered. An official diagnosis is made when the specialist gathers all the information he or she needs to do so.
Seeking Treatment for Sciatica
If you are experiencing sciatica and are looking for a pain relief solution, it can be found when you contact one of our 3 Southern California offices. We will find out what is causing your sciatic pain and then come up with a personalized treatment plan. You can expect results when you choose our clinic.
Dr. Anthony Virella is a Board-Certified, Fellowship trained Neurological Spine Surgeon and a pioneer in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. He attended medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and is a graduate of the UCLA Neurosurgery Residency Program. Dr. Virella is a nationally recognized specialist in the field of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. Virella Neurosurgery has offices in Agoura Hills, Valencia and Palmdale, CA. Contact us today!