Tingling, Radiating Back & Leg Pain
Sciatica vs. Other Types of Back Pain
Sciatica is a particular type of back pain – namely, pain that radiates from the buttock down the leg accompanied by tingling or numbness. It’s usually felt on one side only (though it can occur on both sides) and might be described as a bad leg cramp.
If you have sciatica, it means something has injured or is putting pressure on your sciatic nerve, a nerve that starts at the base of your spine and stretches all the way down both of your legs to your knees. The sciatic nerve is responsible for helping the muscles in your lower body feel and move.
Who Suffers From It
An estimated 90% of cases are caused by a herniated disc, which occurs when the gel-like center of a spinal disc ruptures through a weak area in the tough outer wall and begins to press on the nerve roots in the lower back. Women may be more likely to develop the condition during pregnancy due to pressure on the sciatic nerve from the developing uterus.
How It’s Treated
Up to 90% of patients will not need surgery for sciatica. Most cases can be treated conservatively—the patient will need some combination of rest, pain relievers/nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), massage, specific exercises, and/or physical therapy.
It’s important to understand that your health care team will be working to treat the underlying condition or issue causing your symptoms, rather than the symptoms alone. The goal of your treatment will be to get to the root of the problem.
Expert Advice: Treatment
“Initial treatment for sciatica includes over-the-counter pain medications, stretching, and range-of-motion exercises. If sciatic pain persists for two weeks, see a physician for an evaluation. Damage to the sciatic nerve is generally reversible through nonsurgical management options ranging from formal physical therapy and chiropractic care to ergonomic modifications and avoidance of high impact aerobics. However, if after trying various options the sciatica persists longer than 6 to 8 weeks, your physician may discuss appropriate surgical options with you.”