Is Your Pain Sciatica? Tips for How to Tell

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with sciatica, then you have no problem identifying the surging pain radiating down your leg. But if sciatica is something that you’ve only heard of or have read about while searching the Internet to identify the cause of your symptoms, things can get a bit trickier. As a lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey, our practice offers relief from the pain of sciatica, as well as the physical problems that cause it – but the first step is an accurate diagnosis. There are 6 common problems that cause sciatica, as well as a few others that create similar symptoms but are actually something entirely different.

Sciatica is caused by something putting pressure on your sciatic nerve. The pressure can cause pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness that can be felt in the hip, running down the leg, or even as far away as the ankle or foot. Here are the 6 most common causes:

• Herniated disc – When the small cushions that are found between your vertebrae are subjected to pressure, they can bulge out of their normal position. When this happens and they touch the sciatic nerve, the result is sciatica.
• Lumbar spinal stenosis – Also caused by a problem with the disc, lumbar spinal stenosis is when either a disc or the ligaments that support the spine fall out of place or collapse, causing a narrowing of the area through which the sciatic nerve passes. This is usually a result of degenerative changes.
• Spondylolisthesis – Your spinal column is made up of vertebrae that are positioned in an upright alignment. With age, injury, or wear and tear, these vertebrae can fall out of correct position, leading to pressure on the sciatic nerve.
• Trauma – When an injury such as a car accident or sports injury impacts the spine, the resulting damage to tissue, ligaments and other structures can cause a compression of the nerve.
• Piriformis syndrome – Unlike most causes of sciatica, piriformis syndrome originates in the muscles of the buttock. When that muscle is too tight or is injured, it can cause compression of the nerve.
• Tumors in the spine – When a tumor forms in the spine, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.

A lumbar spine specialist is able to help you address all of these conditions, providing relief from the pain of sciatica. There are three other conditions that are often mistaken for sciatica but which do not originate from the spine. They are:

• Peripheral vascular disease, which is a narrowing of the blood vessels in the leg that can cause muscle cramps and pain.
• Peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves in the legs and arms. This is usually caused by diabetes, alcohol abuse, or other medical conditions.
• Peroneal neuropathy, which is damage to the peroneal nerve that is below the knee on the outside of the leg. This sometimes presents as a weakness in the foot that can be mistaken for sciatica.

The best way to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment of your condition is to set up a consultation with a lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey. Contact our office today to set up a convenient time to come see us.

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