Sciatica (Lumbar Radiculopathy)
What is it?
The sciatic nerve - which is the body’s longest nerve - runs from the spinal cord through the buttocks and down the back of the legs. Sciatica is pain that radiates along the path of this nerve. As such, sciatica is caused by another condition, such as spinal stenosis or a herniated disc.
Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors
Since sciatica refers to the pain along the sciatic nerve and is not itself a condition, the causes are other conditions that affect the areas of this nerve. Conditions that can cause sciatica include:
- Herniated discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal tumors
- Spinal injury
Symptoms of sciatica include:
- Radiating pain, numbness or weakness along any part of the path of the sciatic nerve
- A tingling feeling in the foot
The risk factors for sciatica include:
- Aging and normal wear and tear
- Doing work or participating in physical activities that put strain on the spine
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
- Being diabetic
A doctor will diagnose sciatica by performing a physical examination, checking reflexes and muscle strength, reviewing symptoms and medical history, and conducting imaging test, such as X-rays, an MRI or CT scans.
Treatments for sciatica include:
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Steroid injections
If these treatments are not effective, the doctor may recommend surgery to correct the condition causing sciatica.