Sciatica is not a medical condition, but rather, it refers to a specific set of symptoms that stem from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from each side of the lumbar spine through the hip and buttocks area, down the back of each leg all the way to your feet.
The term “sciatica” is often used as a catch-all name for leg pain.
People with sciatica typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Several underlying medical conditions can cause sciatic pain. They include:
Sciatic nerve pain is typically treated by managing the pain and addressing the underlying medical condition that’s causing your symptoms. Depending on your condition, your doctor may prescribe one or all of the following:
Because “sicatica” is often used as a catch-all term for leg pain, you may have heard your doctor use it to refer to your lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms. Lumbar spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal. While it can result in sciatica, it’s possible to have sciatica without the presence of lumbar spinal stenosis.
One way to tell whether your sciatic pain is caused by lumbar spinal stenosis is to pay attention to when you feel the most pain:
If your sciatica is caused by lumbar spinal stenosis, your doctor may begin with more conservative treatments, such as pain medications and physical therapy.
If these treatments don’t relieve your pain for a sustained period of time, your doctor may suggest surgery as a way to provide sustained relief.
Some lumbar spinal stenosis surgeries are more invasive than others:
There are several conditions that can cause hip and thigh pain, and only your doctor can determine whether you’re experiencing the symptoms of sciatica. Identifying the underlying cause of your sciatic pain is crucial to determining the proper treatment plan.
To diagnose your symptoms and determine the cause, your doctor may do any of the following:
Sciatica can also be referred to as a “radiculopathy,” which simply means that the symptoms you are experiencing stem from a problem with the nerve root. In the case of sciatica, the sciatic nerve root has become irritated or compressed. Learn more about radiculopathy.
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