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Sciatica

Birmingham Neurosurgery & Spine Group

Neurological Surgery located in Birmingham, AL

Sciatica is a leading cause of back pain, especially in adults aged between 30 and 50. If you’re experiencing the typical shooting pain down your leg that indicates sciatica, the team of expert spinal surgeons at Birmingham Neurosurgery & Spine Group in Birmingham, Alabama, can help. They provide outstanding diagnostic and treatment services, including minimally invasive surgery and the Mazor robotic surgery system. Call Birmingham Neurosurgery & Spine Group today to find out more.

Sciatica Q & A

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition in which your sciatic nerve comes under pressure. Pressure on the nerve causes pain in your lower back, which then travels down through your hip and into your leg.

The sciatic nerve begins in your lower (lumbar) spine, passing out of the bottom of your spine and dividing into two branches. One branch of your sciatic nerve then goes into each leg, which is why sciatic pain tends to go down one leg and not the other. In a few rare cases, it can affect both legs.

Pressure from causes like a herniated disc that’s pressing on the sciatic nerve leads to the symptoms of sciatica.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

Sciatica pain is quite distinctive since few other conditions cause the same kind of shooting pain down one leg. You might have a sensation like a cramp or charley horse that won’t go away, and the pain is likely to be worse when you move.

If you sneeze or cough, you might feel a stabbing pain in the affected leg. Sciatica commonly causes weakening of the leg, as well. You could also feel a range of odd sensations, including:

  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Burning
  • Tingling

One condition that does present with similar symptoms to sciatica is piriformis syndrome.

Your symptoms can give your provider a good idea that you have sciatica. They also need to carry out a physical exam and might ask for diagnostic imaging studies such as X-rays or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to see the area in more detail.

How is sciatica treated?

Conservative treatments are often highly effective in treating sciatica. Resting your lower back and gently exercising can sometimes be enough to reduce inflammation and resolve your symptoms. You can also use NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to help ease pain and inflammation, muscle relaxants, and hot and cold compresses to relieve your symptoms. 

Physical therapy can also be a very effective treatment, so you should follow the recommended physical therapy program. Rehabilitative exercising is far more useful for relieving the symptoms of sciatica than bed rest. If your sciatica is severe or isn’t getting better, you may also consider epidural steroid injections to ease the pain and inflammation.

If your symptoms aren’t improving three months into a conservative treatment program, you might benefit from surgery for your sciatica. One of the most extensively used procedures for sciatica is laminotomy with discectomy. Your provider at Birmingham Neurosurgery & Spine Group removes the herniated disc that’s pressing on the sciatic nerve and makes more space for the nerve.

When possible, the Birmingham Neurosurgery & Spine Group uses minimally invasive spine surgery approaches to carry out your procedure. They use state-of-the-art technology, including Mazor robot-assisted surgery and the METRx® System for minimally invasive surgery.

If you are bothered by symptoms of sciatica, call Birmingham Neurosurgery & Spine Group.