Say Goodbye to Your Pinched Sciatic Nerve

runner with sciatica, grabbing leg desktop

A lot of things can go wrong when it comes to the complicated structure of the nervous system. Especially when that something affects the largest nerve in your body: the sciatic nerve. 

Your sciatic nerve branches from the lower back, through your hips, and down each leg. Sciatica, therefore, refers to inflammation of your sciatic nerve.

Generally speaking, problems like sciatica usually affect only one side of the body. They are said to be unilateral in nature. That being said, in some rare instances, the issue can be symmetrical. Additionally, problems elsewhere in the body, such as diminished bowel or bladder control, may appear in conjunction with sciatic nerve issues.

Pain associated with the sciatic nerve can be quite severe. Therefore, it is extremely important to seek medical attention if you suspect that you have sciatica. Thankfully, most cases of sciatica will resolve within a period of a few weeks using only non-operative treatment plans.

In rare instances—usually in cases that involve significant leg weakness—the patient may require surgical correction. Usually, however, your doctor will exhaust all conservative treatment options before suggesting surgery. However, if your case is severe enough from the get-go (e.g. you develop urinary incontinence or saddle anesthesia), your doctor may perform emergency surgery.

Are you experiencing severe leg pain that radiates down one side of your body? Have you tried conservative treatment methods for a period of two weeks or more to no avail? If so, it may be time to give us a call at (855) 210-0899. Our world-class spine surgeon, Dr. Daveed Frazier, will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive only the finest standard of orthopedic care. There’s no limit to what you can do with NYC Spine in your corner!

Pinched Sciatic Nerve: Causes & Risk Factors

Most of the time, a sciatic nerve becomes compressed by one of three anatomical events:

  • Herniated Disc: The discs in our spine consist of a hard outer shell that encases a softer, gel-like substance. Over time, this outer shell may break down, causing the inner filling to spurt out and press on nearby structures, such as the sciatic nerve.
  • Bone Spurs: Bone spurs are overgrowths of bone that press on adjacent nerve endings, causing pain. Usually, bone spurs are caused by joint damage associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis. Most bone spurs do not cause any symptoms, but if they press on the sciatic nerve, they can become quite painful.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Over time, the spaces between our vertebrae may narrow, a process called spinal stenosis. Naturally, less space means more pressure on nearby structures, including the sciatic nerve.

Additional risk factors for developing a pinched sciatic nerve include the following:

  • Obesity: Naturally, if you weigh more, the load on your spine is increased. Excess weight can lead to problems, such as a herniated disc, that can cause sciatica.
  • Age: Age-related degeneration can cause issues such as spinal stenosis and bone spurs—to name just a few conditions that contribute to sciatica.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: If you sit for prolonged periods of time, you are much more likely to develop a pinched sciatic nerve than those with a more active lifestyle.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes affects the way that your body uses blood sugar, which in turn increases your risk of developing nerve damage.
  • Occupation: If you have a job that regularly requires you to bend and twist your back, carry heavy loads, or drive for prolonged periods of time, you are much more likely to develop a pinched sciatic nerve.

Pinched Sciatic Nerve Prevention

Unfortunately, it’s not always in the cards to prevent a pinched sciatic nerve. And, sometimes, the condition may even reoccur. That being said, there are still some things that you can do to diminish your chances:

  • Sciatic nerve exercises: In order to keep your back strong, you’re going to want to devote a lot of attention to your core muscles. This includes the muscles in your lower back and abdomen, which are extremely important for maintaining proper posture and alignment. For more information, be sure to ask your doctor for the best type of exercise in order to prevent a pinched sciatic nerve.
  • Work on maintaining proper posture: This is especially true when you are sitting down for long periods of time. Make sure that you choose a sturdy seat that has proper lower back support, a swivel base, and armrests positioned at an appropriate height. For even more support, consider placing a pillow in your lower back region to help maintain its natural curve. While sitting, also make sure that you keep your hips and knees level.
  • Use proper lifting techniques: If your occupation requires you to regularly lift heavy objects, make sure that you’re applying proper lifting techniques. Don’t use your back to bear the majority of the weight, instead, shift the pressure to your extremities. Make sure that you’re moving straight up and down. Additionally, you want to keep your back straight and bend only at the knees. Don’t hold the load far away from the trunk of your body. Instead, keep it close. And never, ever lift and twist your body simultaneously. If an object is especially heavy, perform a team lift with a partner.

Watch Out for These Symptoms

One of the hallmarks of a pinched sciatic nerve is pain. But, did you know that the pain manifests itself in a very specific way? Typically speaking, pain that radiates from your lumbar spine, through your hip, and down the back of your leg is a classic sign of a pinched sciatic nerve.

The severity of the pain can vary quite a bit from individual to individual. You may experience mild, dull pain or a very severe, sharp, and burning sensation. Some patients even describe their discomfort as a jolt or electric shock. Typically, certain bodily functions, such as sneezing, coughing, or sitting for prolonged periods of time, can exacerbate this pain. As previously mentioned, only one side of the body is usually affected. Although a bit rarer, some patients also report a feeling of numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the affected leg.

Often, a pinched nerve will go away on its own with time. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it with the proper attention and care. If at-home measures like rest and over-the-counter medications are not enough to ease your symptoms, then it’s time to call a doctor. This is especially so if the pain persists for a period of two weeks or longer or if the pain is particularly severe. Likewise, you should seek immediate medical attention in the following scenarios:

  • Your pain is sudden and severe, especially if it is accompanied by numbness or muscle weakness.
  • You have severe pain after experiencing a violent injury, such as a car collision.
  • You are experiencing loss of bowel/bladder control.

Contact Us

When all else fails, it is never unwise to give New York City Spine a call at (855) 210-0899. At our facilities, our standard for excellent care means that you will be treated as a whole, individual person. Not just another name on a chart. You can expect thorough, considerate answers to all of your questions, extraordinary care, and the option to take an active role in creating your treatment plan. To reclaim your life from chronic sciatica, contact us today!

At New York City Spine Surgery, our standard for excellent care means treating you as a whole person, and not just another spine disorder on a chart.

© Copyright 2024. New York City Spine.  All Rights Reserved.