Sciatica is pain associated with the sciatic nerve, which exits the lumbar spine and runs down the hips, buttocks, and legs. Pressure or inflammation around the nerves leads to sciatica, giving the condition its associated pain. Possible causes are a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, pelvic injury, a tumor, and spondylolisthesis. Essentially, anything that pinches the sciatic nerve can lead to sciatica, with pain ranging from mild to severe. Although mild sciatica usually goes away over time, you should seek treatment for any type of nerve pain that lasts longer than a week or continues to worsen. Proper care is key to finding relief, and our spine specialists are here to provide the support you deserve. Learn more about sciatica and how we treat this common condition at OrthoGeorgia below.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
The severity of sciatica pain can vary widely. Some individuals experience a mild tingling or dull ache, while others suffer from sharp pain that leaves them unable to move. Pain associated with sciatica often affects only one side of the body and can be felt in the lower back, buttocks, hips, legs, calves, and even the soles of the feet. Pain can worsen when a person coughs, sneezes, bends over or lifts up their legs while lying down. Other symptoms of sciatica can include:
Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the legs
Different types of pain in various areas of the body, like pain in one part of the leg and numbness in another
Urinary incontinence (in severe cases of sciatica)
Diagnosing Sciatica at OrthoGeorgia
Sciatica is diagnosed using a combination of methods. When you visit an OrthoGeorgia spine specialist with symptoms of sciatica, your provider will start by asking you about your medical history and the pain you are experiencing. They will then conduct a physical exam, which will include an evaluation of the way you walk, your flexibility, and your strength. They will also likely ask you to lift your leg straight in the air while lying down, as pain caused by sciatica will worsen during this type of movement. Imaging tests are not always needed for the diagnosis of sciatica. They are generally used when pain is severe and does not improve within a few weeks. If needed, your doctor may order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to visualize the bones and soft tissues in the area and determine the cause of your symptoms.
Treatment for Sciatica in Central GA
Treating Sciatica Non-Surgically
In many cases of sciatica, conservative treatment methods are the best option. Mild cases of sciatica may even resolve on their own without any need for intervention. Your doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter pain relievers to manage your symptoms or applying heat or ice to the painful area. You should also take steps to take care of your back at home, including gentle back exercises, stretching, and a reduction in activity. If swelling of the nerve continues to cause symptoms, your doctor may recommend steroid injections or physical therapy.
Physical Therapy for Sciatica in Central GA
Physical therapy for sciatica focuses on decreasing symptoms by reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve. A proper physical therapy plan can also help you avoid future injuries by strengthening the muscles in the back. Your therapist will work with you on exercises best suited for your circumstances, with physical therapy for sciatica often including stretching, walking, swimming, or water aerobics. At OrthoGeorgia, we are proud to provide comprehensive physical therapy care in Macon, Warner Robins, and Kathleen. Our PT locations are staffed by licensed physical therapists and physical therapy assistants who are trained in a number of specialized treatments. Our therapists take the time needed to get to know each patient while also communicating with their OrthoGeorgia physician to ensure true continuity of care.
Will I Need Surgery for Sciatica?
Surgery is usually only considered in severe cases of sciatica when nerve compression causes severe weakness, pain that does not respond to other treatment methods, and loss of bladder or bowel control. Surgery for sciatica focuses on relieving the pressure on the affected nerve. This can often be accomplished via discectomy (the removal of small sections of the herniated disc) or laminectomy (the removal of the section of the lamina that is pressing on the spinal nerve). If your OrthoGeorgia physician believes that surgery is the best next step for you, they will walk you through your surgical options and ensure that your questions are answered every step of the way.
Other Spine and Back Conditions We Treat at OrthoGeorgia
Our spine specialists at OrthoGeorgia work with patients facing a wide range of spine conditions and injuries, including cases of sciatica in Central GA. We want to help you get back to living your life to the fullest, whether that is at home, at work, or on the sports field. Those seeking comprehensive orthopaedic care in GA are encouraged to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic specialists at OrthoGeorgia. Spine and neck issues we diagnose and treat at our orthopaedic clinics in Central GA include: