Sciatica Pain in North Texas

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What is Sciatica (Nerve) Pain?

Sciatica is classified as pain that persists in the lower half of the body and is the result of an irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest one in the body, beginning in the lumbar spine region and extending through the buttocks to the lower extremities. Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, not one in and of itself. Even so, many people use the term sciatica to describe a wide range of back-related conditions. Fellowship-trained and board-certified spine surgeon Dr. Kendall Carll offers relief from sciatic nerve pain through treatments at Spine Center of North Texas. With offices in Addison and Plano, our team makes it convenient for you to obtain the help you need to feel better, faster.

What Are the Causes of Sciatica Pain?

Sciatica is typically caused by physiological conditions that pinch or squeeze the spinal cord, or one of the nerve branches that extend through the hips. Most often, sciatica is caused by a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis. Sciatica becomes more commonplace in middle-aged individuals and is most likely to develop around age 40 or 50. Because the term sciatica is often used loosely to describe leg pain, it may seem like everyone has sciatica. Since the root causes are so common, that’s not hard to believe. In addition to common causes (such as a herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine), some conditions that could lead to sciatica are:

  • Pregnancy
  • Scar tissue from a previous back surgery
  • Muscle strain
  • A spinal tumor
  • Infections
  • A lumbar vertebra fracture
  • Ankylosing spondylitis

Sciatica that occurs after an accident or trauma, or develops in conjunction with other troubling symptoms like fever or loss of appetite, warrants prompt medical evaluation.

What Are the Risk Factors of Sciatica (Nerve) Pain?

Sciatica pain, a symptom of an underlying medical condition affecting the sciatic nerve, can be influenced by several risk factors. These risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing sciatica by causing irritation, inflammation, or compression of the sciatic nerve. Understanding and addressing these risk factors can help prevent sciatica or reduce the severity of its symptoms. Common risk factors that can trigger sciatica pain include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Occupation
  • Prolonged sitting
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor posture

What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica Pain?

Sciatica is often characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely in both legs)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling, or searing (versus a dull ache)
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, and/or toes
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk
  • Pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes

Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. The exact symptoms are usually based on the location of the pinched nerve.

How is Sciatica Pain Diagnosed?

Dr. Carll will diagnose your sciatica nerve pain after a physical examination and a discussion about your medical history. The physical examination may include a few movements that help pinpoint your pain. Dr. Carll may ask you to walk on your toes and/or heels, rise from a seated position, or lift your legs while seated, one at a time. Sciatica nerve pain is typically made worse by these movements. As sciatic nerve pain is the result of an underlying condition, Dr. Carll may recommend x-rays or a CT scan to rule out the possibility of more serious spinal conditions. The cause of your sciatic pain may help determine the course of treatment chosen by the Spine Center of North Texas.

How Is Sciatica Pain Treated?

Nonsurgical Options

The goal of nonsurgical sciatica treatments is to relieve pain and any neurological symptoms caused by the compressed nerve root. For some patients with severe sciatica, Dr. Carll may recommend a day or so of rest, but not much more. Prolonged inactivity can increase the pain from sciatica and lead to a general deterioration of your muscle tone. One or more of the treatments below is usually recommended, in conjunction with specific physical therapy exercises:

  • Heat/ice therapy
  • Pain medications
  • Epidural steroid injections

Some patients also find relief from sciatic discomfort through:

  • Chiropractic/manual manipulation
  • Water aerobics
  • Massage therapy

Surgical Options

In most cases, sciatica gets better over time, but the healing process can take a few days or even a few weeks. If your sciatic nerve pain does not resolve itself after 6 – 12 weeks, surgery may be an option. If the pain is caused by a lumbar disc herniation, a discectomy is the most common surgical approach. During this surgery, a portion of the herniated disc (sometimes the entire disc) is removed, eliminating the pressure against the nerve. When sciatic nerve pain is due to lumbar spinal stenosis, a laminectomy may be recommended. This involves the removal of the small portion of the vertebral bone (and perhaps the superior spinal process, and/or disc material) that is pinching the nerve root. Laminectomy surgery may be the best surgical option if spinal stenosis is causing sciatica.

Whether or not surgery is necessary will be based on the amount of pain and dysfunction that exists, as well as the length of time the pain has persisted. Your overall health is also a key factor in this decision. Patients who are overweight may experience a more difficult recovery from these surgical procedures. In some cases, losing weight may lessen the pain or frequency of the sciatic episodes, and eliminate or postpone the need for surgery.

Sciata Pain FAQ

How can I tell if my pain is sciatica?

Usually, people tend to describe sciatica pain as being like a burning or electric shock that radiates throughout the leg. Some even describe it as literal pins and needles. This could occur during a cough, sneeze, bend, or leg lift. If you notice any of these sensations, it could be time to schedule a consultation with a member of our team to have it diagnosed.

What causes sciatica pain to flare up?

Tightness in the lower back, hips, and/or legs often causes sciatica pain to start. Additionally, it could be caused from untreated conditions, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and bone spurs. Other factors include bad posture, sitting for too long, weight gain, and pregnancy.

Does walking affect sciatica pain?

Yes. In fact, walking can often have positive effects for sciatica patients. While it might hurt to walk, doing so promotes blood flow throughout the body and can strengthen the nerves. After your consultation, we can give you a plan for how to properly manage your pain.

Offering Sciatica Solutions

Board-certified North Texas spine surgeon Dr. Kendall Carll is passionate about providing his patients with immediate and long-term relief from low back pain and sciatic nerve pain. Using proven nonsurgical and surgical techniques, our team strives to help patients regain their ability to enjoy life without discomfort. If you are suffering from low back pain or have been diagnosed with sciatica, we invite you to call Spine Care of North Texas to schedule your appointment. We can help you find solutions for your sciatic nerve pain.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.