Bellevue Sciatica Pain Specialist Dr. Kevin Polzin, answers frequent questions that we get 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 legs. Sciatica means an irritation to the sciatic nerve. This large nerve originates from the nerve roots of the last three spinal segments in the lower back, comes together as one nerve in the buttocks and travels down the back of the leg to the back of the knee. It is considered the biggest nerve in the body. Sciatica is not really a diagnosis but rather it is a symptom of a diagnosis. In the majority of cases, the source of the nerve irritation can be traced to the vertebrae, lower back bones, and / or the discs of the spinal column.

What Causes Sciatica Pain?
Nerve compression can cause sciatic pain. Spinal disc disorders such as disc bulges and disc herniation can put pressure on the roots of the sciatic nerve causing pain to travel from the lower back to one leg or both legs. There can be little to no back pain however a burning type pain in the leg which can decrease function and can cause leg weakness leading to trips and falls.  Sciatica can be trauma induces or due to age-related conditions from wear and tear of the spine.  Lumbar spinal stenosis is essentially narrowing of a segment of the spine. The narrowing is usually in the lower back and compresses the nerve that exits the spinal cord. In most cases only one side of the body may be affected. A strenuous lift or even prolonged sitting can play a role in spinal pressures that trigger sciatic pain. Trauma is a common cause of lumbar pain. The injury may lead to fractures or sprain which can injure the lumbar nerves.

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 can be difficult as the cause can be varied or a combination of several causes so a professional examination is imperative so that a proper care plan may be prescribed.

What Are Sciatica Pain Symptoms?
The majority of individuals will complain of sudden sharp shooting pain traveling from the buttock into the side of the hip and / or down the back of the thigh. This pain may radiate as far as below the back of the knee and end in the calf or at the ankle.  Sciatica can be immediately disabling, many “just wake up with it” and most suffers cannot find any body position in which to find relief. The farther down the leg that the pain goes, the more severe the situation is. Some patients also complain of feeling a tingling or a sensation of pins and needles at the back of the calf or foot that may may alternate with the pain. Someone with sciatica pain may have a difficult time getting comfortable while sitting or sleeping.  Sciatic nerve pain can worsen when you sneeze, sit down, stand up, or bend over.

The pain of sciatica is generally worsened with postures or actions that compresses the lower back nerves such as sitting on a chair or lifting weights.

When nerve compression is most severe, one may have loss of bladder or bowel control. This is often known as Cauda Equina Syndrome and should be considered as an acute emergency requiring immediate hospital attention.  At this stage the vertebral column may have compressed the nerve and surgical intervention may be required.

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.

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.