Many patients present to our office complaining that “my sciatic” is acting up.

Sciatic Nerve and PainThe medical term “sciatica” refers to leg pain including below the knee as a result of a lumbar spine or lower back problem.

The term “sciatica” has been inappropriately used to suggest involvement of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is formed by multiple spinal nerves exiting from the lower back or lumbar spine. However, the sciatic nerve is not formed until reaching the region of the buttock.

Nevertheless, the term sciatica does not refer to entrapment of the sciatic nerve but a painful condition characterized by leg pain as the result of a lumbar spinal problem.

The most common cause of sciatica in a working age population is a herniated disc.

In an older population, sciatica is generally caused from a degenerative arthritic condition or spinal stenosis. The usual non-operative treatment offered for sciatica includes activity modification including avoidance of aggravating activities, oral medications including pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and manipulation such as chiropractic treatment.

If these treatment modalities fail to provide sufficient relief, interventional therapy such as epidural steroid injections are then used to relieve the pain and maximize quality of life. In some cases, non-operative treatments fail to relieve the sciatica and surgical intervention becomes necessary.

In summary, sciatica is a common painful condition as the result of a lumbar spinal problem usually relieved with non-operative treatment but occasionally requiring surgery.