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APM Spine & Sports Physicians


What is sciatica?

When you experience low back pain and/or leg pain that radiates from the buttock as far down as the foot, the culprit may well be sciatica.

The problem may result from irritation to the sciatic nerve (a large nerve that runs from the low back down the leg). It can be caused by compression of the nerve roots in the low back. It can also be caused by compression of the sciatic nerve itself, which is less common. This nerve provides partial sensation and motor control to the leg, and when it is compromised by pain, numbness and weakness could result.

The pain can start in the low back, then progressively go down the leg, and usually will only affect one side of your body.

Other causes include:

How is it diagnosed?

Your physician will get a complete history of your symptoms and conduct a thorough examination that may include:

  • Neurological and musculoskeletal testing to assess balance and strength
  • Straight leg raise testing
  • Hip flexibility
  • MRI or CT scans
  • EMG studies to detect electrical abnormalities

How is it treated?

Sciatica usually does not require surgery. Sometimes it will just go away by itself. If it does not, a number of treatment options are available. We use many of the following:

  • Medicines to reduce pain, inflammation, and spasm
  • Physical therapy to take pressure off of the nerve roots, stabilize the spine, and stretch and strengthen the muscles of the lower back
  • Trigger point injections
  • Steroid injections around the nerve roots (epidural steroid injection)
  • Techniques to prevent additional injury

What results can I expect?

The majority of patients can resume normal activities within six weeks of treatment.