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Dr. Perry What are the advantages of Laser Spine Institute?
Dr. Michael Perry, Chief Medical Director and Co-Founder of Laser Spine Institute, explains the breakthrough procedures and gives you the opportunity to find out whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.

Sciatica Overview

It can strike like lightning: A sudden, shocking bolt of pain in the lower back that shoots down your leg. At first, you hope the pain is a simple strain or sprain that can be treated by home remedies or will improve on its own. When the pain persists, it may come as a shock to have your physician break the news that your symptoms are caused by sciatica, or a compressed sciatic nerve. The longest nerve in the body,the sciatic nerve, branches from your lower back and travels through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body (called “unilateral sciatica”), which indicates which side of the spine is compressed. If your symptoms are felt in both legs, you have “bilateral sciatica,” which may mean the underlying cause of the compression, such as a herniated disc, is so large that nerve roots on both sides of the spine are compressed. It’s also possible that two separate conditions have developed on opposite sides of the spine.

Sciatica symptoms

If you’ve ever experienced an odd, traveling pain that radiates from your lower back to your buttock and down the back of your leg, you have classic symptoms of sciatica. Other signs of sciatica include:

  • A sharp pain or dull ache at the site where the sciatic nerve is compressed
  • Intermittent or constant pain in the hamstring, front of the thigh or buttocks
  • Diminished sensation, tingling or numbness, in the lower back, buttocks, legs, feet or toes
  • Unexplained muscle weakness in an area of the lower body innervated by the sciatic nerve
  • A change in how you walk (called your “gait”), due to a symptom known as foot drop, when you are unable to raise your ankles and toes in a normal upward position. As a result, you may drag your toes or lift your knee higher than usual to allow your foot to move forward.
  • Symptoms are commonly experienced on only one side of the body

Sciatica causes

If you suffer from the mild, dull or sharp pain called sciatica, which travels from your lower back to your leg, you’re likely eager to find out what caused this troubling condition. A variety of conditions can cause sciatica, with a herniated disc being the most common one. Other sciatica causes include:

  • Degenerative disc disease, a common degenerative condition involving one or more damaged intervertebral discs that can occasionally cause neck or back pain
  • Pelvic injury or fracture, perhaps due to a car accident, sports injury or calamitous fall
  • Piriformissyndrome, spasms in the piriformis muscle, which attaches to the thigh and allows for hip rotation
  • Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal, or of the nerve pathways within the spinal column
  • Spondylolisthesis, a vertebral dislocation disorder, which typically occurs in the lower spine
  • A spinal or sciatic nerve tumor

Sciatica treatment

To treat sciatica, physicians usually opt for a conservative approach first to calm symptoms and reduce inflammation. Conservative treatment options include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Low-impact exercise to improve flexibility and cardiovascular health
  • Light weight training to improve core strength
  • Behavior modification to improve posture and cut down on painful activities
  • Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation around the nerve
  • Applications of heat or cold sources
  • Periodic rest

If symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, a physician may recommend back surgery. If you’re concerned about the risks and complications of open neck or back surgery, you may wish to explore the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures available at Laser Spine Institute that offer a lower risk of complication and quicker recovery times^ than traditional open back surgery.

Additional Information on Common Spine Conditions