Sciatica is a very common condition, especially in men and women between the ages of 30 and 50. The pain usually starts in the lower back or hips and then radiates into the back of the thighs and can spread down into the legs with the possibility of affecting the feet.
Sciatica refers to those symptoms that target nerve roots and cause pain, but it is not the cause of the pain. This subtle distinction is critical because the treatment options turn on the specific symptoms. Depending on the symptoms, a physician will determine the appropriate treatment for each patient. If you're seeking quality medical attention for sciatica or other conditions, visit The Spine Center.
The Science Behind Sciatica
Normal aging and wear-and-tear contribute to scatica. A common cause of sciatica is the deterioration of intervertebral disks between each vertebra that cushion the bones of the lower (lumbar) spine. These disks allow for flexibility, strength, and movement. Over time, the disks lose water causing the vertebra to rub together. The disks’ jelly-like center (nucleus) may protrude into or through the disk's outer lining. The nucleus can also leak chemicals that irritate and inflame nerve roots.
As a result, these herniated disks can place sudden, direct pressure on the surrounding nerves in the lower back. Specifically, pinched nerve development targets the sciatic nerve, a large nerve fiber that originates in the lower back that runs through the buttocks and down the lower legs. The sciatic nerve is actually the body’s longest and widest single nerve. It’s been found that an estimated 1 in 50 people will experience a herniated disk during their lifetime and 10% to 25% will experience sciatic nerve compression symptoms lasting more than 6 weeks.
The main symptom of sciatica is severe radiating pain. This pain may even manifest itself when sitting, coughing, or sneezing. Sciatic nerve compression may be accompanied by numbness, muscular weakness, tingling, burning, and a pins and needles feeling. Patients also complain about difficulty in moving around and controlling their legs. Frequently, these symptoms are only felt on a single side of the body. Although rare, sciatica’s nerve pressure may cause the loss of bladder or bowel control and numbness or tingling in the groin or genital area. When this occurs, immediate medical attention is vital.