What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is the pain which is typically seen advancing gradually along the sciatic nerve. This nerve is located in the lower back region and spreads outwards to the hips and buttocks and then down each leg.
Sciatica is commonly found to affect any one side of the body. This condition is mostly seen in case of a herniated inter-vertebral disc, a bone spur in the spine or spinal stenosis which causes the spinal canal to become narrowed and compresses the spinal nerves. This results in selling, pain and sometime numbness in the affected leg.
Mostly, the sciatica can be treated with non-surgical methods and painkillers if the symptoms are mild in nature. However, more severe sciatica requires surgical treatment for alleviating the pain and treating the other symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of Sciatica?
These are the common signs and symptoms of sciatica:
- Lower back pain
- Pain in leg
- Pain in the hip
- Tingling/burning in the leg
- Numbness/weakness and difficulty in using leg
- Constant pain in one side of the buttocks
- Intense pain while standing
Sciatica is usually seen affecting one side of the lower body. Most often the pain progresses from the lower back and the back of the thigh till the lower leg. Depending on the location of the damage to the sciatic nerve the pain may also extend lower, to the foot and toes as well.
In some cases, the pain from sciatica is mild, infrequent and irritating but is likely to worsen if left untreated. In other cases, the pain from sciatica is severe and disabling. It is advisable to seek immediate medical advice if you feel any sort of numbness or weakness in the lower back that has progresses gradually to the back of the upper thighs as well as loss of bladder and bowel movement and control.
What are the causes of Sciatica?
Sciatica is mainly caused by the irritation in the roots of the lower back’s spinal nerves.
Other common causes of sciatica are:
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – This results in the constricting of the spinal canal in the lower back and causes pressure on the spinal cord.
- Degenerative Disc Disease – This causes the gradual disintegration of the inter-vertebral discs that act as cushions and stabilizers between the vertebrae.
- Spondylolisthesis – This condition causes one vertebra to slip ahead of the one above it and constrict the spinal canal.
- Muscle Spasms in back/buttocks
Being overweight and obese may also worsen the pain the back and the buttocks. Being out of shape, wearing high heels frequently, and sleeping on mattresses that are too soft may also make the back pain worse.
What are the risk factors for Sciatica?
These are the common risk factors that increase the chances of developing sciatica:
- Age – Degeneration of the spine due to advancing age is a natural process. This may often result in herniated inter-vertebral disc and bone spurs that put pressure on the spinal nerves and cause sciatica eventually.
- Overweight – Being obese increases the risk of developing sciatica as excess weight on the spine puts stress on it and may alter the shape of the bone and give rise to sciatica.
- Occupational hazards – a job that requires you to use your back by twisting it or carrying heavy loads as well as driving an automobile for prolonged periods often gives rise to sciatica.
- Diabetes – This pancreatic disorder increases the risk of general nerve damage.
How is Sciatica diagnosed?
The doctor will initially perform a complete physical examination to check for signs of muscular weakness and reflexes. You will feel the pain worsening while walking on the toes/heels, rise from squatting and when lifting your leg from a lying position.
The doctor may also perform certain imaging diagnostic tests that are useful for checking for bone spurs or herniated inter-vertebral disc. These are the imaging tests used for diagnosing sciatic disorder:
- X-ray – Spinal x-ray can help reveal bone spurs (overgrown/abnormal bone) that might be compressing the spinal nerves.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test – This advanced diagnostic test uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to create a cross-sectional image of the back. This test reveals clear details of the bones as well as the soft tissues (herniated inter-vertebral disc, etc).
- CT (Computerized Tomography) scan – In this imaging test the doctor might need to inject a contrast dye into the spinal canal using a very fine needle through the back before the x-ray imaging process is started. (CT Myelogram). This helps to accentuate the spinal cord and spinal nerves from the spine.
- EMG (Electromyography) – This test reads the electrical impulses produced by the nerves and the muscle response to it. This is useful for determine spinal stenosis being caused by nerve compression due to narrowing of the spinal canal.
How is Sciatica treated?
In case rest and other home-measures do not relieve the pain in the back the doctor may advise:
These are the types of medications that are prescribed for sciatica pain:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- Narcotics (pain killers)
- Muscle relaxants
- Anti-seizure medications
As soon as the acute pain gets alleviated with medications the physiotherapist will plan a physical therapy program for you to prevent further injuries.
These are simple exercises aimed at improving posture and strengthen the back muscles as well as restoring flexibility.
Certain cases might require administering corticosteroid injections into the affected nerve root area to help alleviate pain through suppressing the inflammation around the irritated nerve.
These are required to be taken every few months as their effect wears off but the doctor will advise on the need for it.
The surgical treatment option for sciatica is used when the compressed nerve causes noticeable weakness and loss of bladder/bowel control. It is also recommended when the pain is seem to worsen and advance to the outer extremities in the lower limbs which does not respond to medications or physiotherapy.
Surgeon will probably remove the bone spur causing the compression or remove the herniated inter-vertebral disc which is pressing against the affected nerve in the spinal canal.
Why choose Travcure for Sciatica treatment in India?
India is known to have the largest global-class healthcare network spread across all its major cities, such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, etc. These are top-of-the-class multi-specialty hospitals and clinics that are equipped with the most modern and advanced medical and surgical technology. These comprehensive healthcare facilities are maintained by India’s most-experienced and well-trained medical professionals and specialists. Travcure is well-connected to this vast premium healthcare network and offers every patient with the best and most efficient sciatica treatment at the most affordable prices at these world-class hospitals in India.