Pain in the backs of the legs is often referred to as sciatica. This condition originates in your lumbar spine, or the lower back region, but can affect your legs and feet. The pain travels down your legs through your sciatic nerves, which are nerves that originate in your lumbar spine.
The Lumbar Spine
The lumbar region of your spine consists of five vertebrae between your ribcage and pelvis. From top to bottom, these vertebrae are labeled L1 to L5. Below these is the sacrum (S1). Above each vertebra there is a spinal nerve with its root in your spinal cord. When these nerves join together they form the sciatic nerves. The sciatic nerves are the longest and widest nerves in your body and run the length of your legs. If the root of one of your sciatic nerves is irritated or compressed, you might experience pain or numbness in your buttocks, legs, or feet.
Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain
There are a number of reasons why you might be experiencing sciatic nerve pain. Lumbar disc herniation, lumbar spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease, among other conditions, may irritate or compress your sciatic nerve’s roots. Dr. Rovner will work with you to discover the source of your sciatic nerve pain.
Symptoms of Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatica often manifests itself in lower back pain or numbness. You may also be experiencing pain or numbness in one leg or buttock. Rarely will the roots of both sciatic nerves be irritated or compressed at once but if this is the case, you will feel pain in both legs or the buttocks. Here are some of the symptoms associated with sciatica.
- Sharp pain in the lower back, leg, or buttock
- Numbness or tingling in one leg or foot
- Weakness in one leg or foot
- Inability to control bowel movements or bladder, indicating a serious condition that requires immediate medical care
Diagnosis of Sciatic Nerve Pain
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from sciatica. However, the presence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate that you have this condition. You should seek medical attention if you are experiencing these symptoms as a result of an injury, if the symptoms are intense, or if they have been constant for several weeks.
A consultation with Dr. Rovner at Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics will consist of a thorough review of your medical history, including any test results that you bring. Dr. Rovner will conduct a physical exam to pinpoint the root cause of your symptoms and then order tests you might need, including MRI scans or x-rays. You will learn about your diagnosis, whether Dr. Rovner has determined that it is sciatica or another condition, as well as your treatment options. Your consultation will conclude with a decision on the best treatment option for you.
Treating Sciatic Nerve Pain
Dr. Rovner recommends surgical treatment only if you have exhausted other options or if your condition needs an immediate fix. If you have a diagnosis of sciatica, you will probably need medication, modified activity, or physical therapy. As a last resort, you may need to undergo surgery. Dr. Rovner specializes in performing lumbar discectomy or laminectomy procedures which immediately remove the pressure on your nerves.