Sciatica – a condition that can cause pain, numbness, and weakness – affects up to 40% of the population at some point in their lifetime. People might refer to sciatica as a “pinched nerve,” which is fairly accurate, but the clinical name for the underlying cause is “lumbar radiculopathy.”
Lumbar radiculopathy is nerve pain that originates in the lower (lumbar) section of the spine and spreads (radiculitis). This condition may occur when a bulging disc puts pressure on the existing nerve. Bone spurs on the spine, or a narrowing of the spinal column (spinal stenosis) may also put excess pressure on nerves, causing sciatica. Another cause of sciatic pain is piriformis syndrome, in which a small muscle in the buttock becomes inflamed and pinches the sciatic nerve as it passes through it.
Because the spinal discs and piriformis muscles are soft and flexible, the pressure they exert on nerves may be inconsistent and may change depending on body position. That’s one reason why sciatic nerve pain may “come and go.” Some people may experience unbearable pain, while others may have mild symptoms, but even though symptoms can vary widely, one thing that holds true for all people with lumbar radiculopathy is that exercise and stretching can help alleviate pain.
The spine is the body’s central support system. Strengthening the core muscles in the buttocks, thighs, lower back, and abdomen takes pressure off the spine and discs, which can in turn alleviate back pain.
At Center for Pain Management, our physical therapy team shows sciatica patients stretches and exercises that they can do on their own to reduce inflammation, improve mobility, and increase strength. Stronger muscles are also more resistant to injuries like strains and sprains.
In some cases, more aggressive pain-relieving treatments may be necessary to alleviate symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy. Treatment options may include:
If sciatica is interfering with your daily activities or keeping you up at night, it’s time to see a pain specialist. Please contact Center for Pain Management to schedule your consultation: (317) 706-7246.