Bellevue Sciatica Pain Specialist Dr. Kevin Polzin, answers some questions we gets from prospective patients interested in Sciatica Pain Relief Treatment.

What Is Sciatica?
Many people claim they have sciatica but what exactly is sciatica? And how different is it from back pain?  Sciatica is a term used to describe a set of pain symptoms that affect the lower back, hip, and leg. It is also used to describe back pain during pregnancy from the pressure of the growing baby as it moves into birth position. Sciatica gets it origin from the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower mid back to the back of the leg. It is the longest and probably the biggest nerve in the body. The term sciatica essentially means that there is pain radiating from your spine to the back of the legs. Whenever back pain radiates to the back of the legs, the term sciatica is used. Sciatica is not a diagnosis but rather it is a symptom. In the majority of cases, the cause of sciatica is that the nerve is being irritated by the bones and or discs of the spinal column.

What Causes Sciatica Pain?
Spinal nerve compression causes sciatic pain. Spinal disk disorders put pressure on the sciatic nerve causing pain to travel down the lower back to one leg. Most often, sciatica causes are age-related from general wear and tear of the spine over time. A job that requires heavy lifting or prolonged sitting may also play a role in spinal pressures that trigger sciatic pain.

More specific conditions that contribute to sciatic nerve pain include:

  • Degenerative disc disease or spondylolisthesis
  • Herniated disc, bulging disc, or slipped disc
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Muscle spasms in hip and buttocks
  • Neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy
  • Nerve damage from injury or infection
  • Pinched nerve
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Spinal and pelvic misalignments
  • How Do You Relieve Sciatica Pain?
    Sciatic pain relief is tricky because causes can be quite varied but until you can get in to see us, here are several pain relief solutions to try at home:

  • Low-impact exercise like walking, swimming, or yoga (but, avoid these movements
  • Apply a hot or cold compress to the affected area, using heat before physical activity and cold after.
  • Distract yourself so the brain has something else to focus on besides the pain. Try meditating, watching a movie, or getting into a deep conversation with a friend.
  • Improve your posture when sitting, standing, or walking. You can even buy shoes to help with this.

Keep in mind that everyone is different, so experiment with sciatic relief techniques until you find a remedy that’s right for you. If, however, sciatic pain persists see a doctor as soon as possible.

What Are Sciatica Pain Symptoms?

SymptomThe majority of individuals will complain of sudden sharp pain shooting from the mid back into the back of the thigh. This pain may radiate all the way below the back of the knee and end at the ankle. The pain is quite intense and uncomfortable. At the first sign of sciatica, most individuals will be disabled. The farther down the leg that the pain goes, the more severe the situation is.

The pain of sciatica is generally worsened with any posture or condition that compresses the nerve. Sitting on a chair or lifting weights can worsen the pain.

Besides pain, some individuals may complain of numbness at the back of the calf or foot. In other cases, the numbness may alternate with the pain.

When sciatica is severe, one may even have loss of bladder or bowel control. This is an acute emergency often known as cauda equina syndrome. These individuals need emergency care in a hospital setting. At this stage the vertebral column has completely compressed the nerve and one needs to get urgent relief with some type of surgery.

pain symptoms vary depending on where the nerve compresses. It’s often described as a sharp pain, tingling, or numbness felt on one side of the body on the leg and/or foot.

Someone with sciatica pain has a difficult time getting comfortable. When sitting and sleeping, they’ll often change positions to ease the pain. Sciatic nerve pain can worsen when you sneeze, sit down, stand up, or bend over. Unfortunately, the pain is most severe at night.

What Are the Treatment Options For Sciatica?

Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescribed muscle relaxers will help mild sciatic pain.

Physical Therapy: If sciatica symptoms last more than a couple of weeks, we recommend physical therapy. Proper exercise and spine alignment will help ease and possibly prevent sciatic pain from coming back. Using sciatica symptoms and lifestyle factors as a road map, most doctors can diagnose the exact cause of pain.

specific hands-on treatments:

Surgery: Those who have severe sciatica associated with excruciating pain, leg weakness, or bowel/bladder changes may need injections or surgery.

What Happens If I Don’t Treat Sciatica?Without treatment, sciatica can lead to increased pain, long-term nerve damage, and bladder issues. It will take longer for pain, numbness, and weakness to dissipate, and may become permanent. If you experience mild sciatic pain, it usually resolves itself within 1 to 2 weeks, but seek treatment if the pain persists.How Do You Prevent Sciatica?

  • Support your spine whenever possible with the right office chair, back pillow, mattress, and bed pillow.
  • Minimize stress on your spine and hips with regular movement and stretching exercises.
  • Exercise regularly and stay active, but avoid these movements to prevent further pain.
  • Seek conservative treatment at the onset of sciatic nerve pain.

How Long Does Sciatica Treatment Last?

In most cases, sciatica resolves within 4 to 6 weeks of treatment. However, it can depend on the pain level and cause of the sciatica flare-up.

When Should I See A Doctor For Sciatica Pain?

Call your doctor if sciatica pain lasts longer than 3 weeks, self-care measures fail to ease symptoms, or the pain becomes worse. Seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have sudden, severe pain in your low back or leg and numbness or muscle weakness in your leg.
  • Pain follows a violent injury, such as a car accident.
  • You have trouble controlling your bowels or bladder.

The most important treatment for sciatica is the proper diagnosis of the cause. Call NOW 425-999-9633 for a FREE consultation to see if we can help you.


Causes of Sciatica pain

Causes of sciatica include damage to the joint, daily wear and tear, muscle spasms, cartilage damage, tendon and ligament tears, herniation of the disc or a fracture of the joint. Even though herniated disc is one of the most common causes of sciatica, there are other causes that can cause similar symptoms.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is essentially narrowing of a segment of the spine. The narrowing is usually in the lower back and often compresses the nerve that exits the spinal cord. In most cases only one side of the body may be affected.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slips slightly forward over another vertebra. The displaced bone fragment can then pinch or compress the sciatic nerve when it exist the spine.
Piriformis syndrome is a rare disorder when one of the muscles in the lower back goes into spasms and compresses the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome can occur from prolonged sitting, motor vehicle accidents and traumatic falls.
Trauma is a common cause of lumbar pain. The injury may lead to fractures or sprain which can injure the lumbar nerves.

Most people who develop sciatica are in their 20’s and 30’s, over weight or deconditioned lift weights or have trauma to their back. The pain from lumbar spine can vary in intensity. In some cases it may be mild and localized but in others it can be very painful and may feel like an electrical jolt. Often the pain can be worsened by sitting for too long in one position, sneezing, coughing or sleeping on the stomach.

Besides pain, other features of lumbar spine disease include numbness or muscle weakness along the path of the nerve. Other individuals may feel tingling or a sensation of pins and needles in the back of the leg and foot. If the nerve compression is serious, it can also lead to bowel and bladder incontinence.