Expert Blog


Sciatica is a pain in the bum! And sometimes the back, foot, toes and calf. Sciatica is a symptom, not a diagnosis. It can be awful – the severity of the symptoms differs from patient to patient and depends on the root cause. Finding effective treatment could significantly improve your quality of life.

What 'sciatica' means is a pain along the sciatic nerve. Essentially it is neurological – so the range of sensation can go from tingling, aching, burning, sharp, lancinating (a nice word from old medical text books, which means piercing, cutting or stabbing), or evening 'lightning' shooting down the leg. A reduced blood supply to the nerve sheath is enough to provoke symptoms in some people and sometimes an arthritic 'sharpening' of the edges of the bony column will create a bony tooth, or osteophyte, which literally bites the nerve in certain positions. Disc bulges can also cause nerve root irritation, and when examined, the patient may experience sciatic pain when their doctor raises the affected leg. The nerve can also be compressed if it runs through a muscle in the bottom called piriformis.

The "perfect" sciatica treatment solution for a patient will largely depend on what is causing the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Patients may respond to particular exercises for sciatica or stretches that work on freedom of movement around the nerve sheath. A physician skilled in interventional pain management therapy will have a great deal to offer some cases, while an anti-inflammatory medication will work like a charm for others. There can be dramatic relief following surgery, when whatever was pressing on the nerve, is removed.

The key factor in determining the effective resolution of sciatic pain and pain management overall is a correct diagnosis, and for that, a team of highly skilled professionals, like those at Sonoran Spine, is required: imaging technicians as well as spine surgeons, interventional pain management, and physical therapists are all involved.

Diseases of the bowel or uterus may also mimic some sciatic symptoms, so diagnostic testing is essential. Once various avenues have been considered, surgery may be the best solution – the problem should be viewed from every angle.