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Sciatica (lumbar radiculopathy) refers to symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness or weakness that travel down the low back and into the leg or extremity. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and exits the spinal cord as several nerve roots which join to form the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica is not in itself a disease, but a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the nerve. The nerve, and the accompanying pain, radiate from the low back to travel behind the thigh and often below the knee to the ankle or foot.
In addition to disc herniation, the sciatic nerve may become irritated by adjacent structures, such as bone, muscle, tumors, infections, injury, or bleeding.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Symptoms are usually based on the location of the pinched nerve. They may include:
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Leg pain that is often described as burning or tingling
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, or toes
Pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes (radiculopathy).
Many cases of lumbar radiculopathy can be treated successfully with conservative measures. These include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Oral corticosteroids
- Muscle relaxant medications
- Exercise and physical therapy to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve
Through a program of exercise, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medications, and time, most patients have resolution of their pain.
When pain is severe, epidural injections of corticosteroids may relieve inflammation and swelling of the herniated disc, reducing irritation of the nerve.
If the symptoms of the compressed nerves have not improved with conservative measures, then surgery may be considered. When surgery is necessary for radiculopathy, the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center takes the least invasive approach possible. The goal of the surgery is to relieve nerve compression, thus relieving pain and restoring full use and motion of the affected limbs. (Learn more about surgery for radiculopathy.)
Why Choose Weill Cornell Medicine for Myofascial Pain?
The physicians at Weill Cornell Medicine Division of Pain Management use the latest research, the most advanced equipment, and innovative therapies to diagnose pain and develop customized pain management plans for each patient. We work closely with a broad team of specialists to provide the highest quality care.
Our team includes experts in myofascial pain. We help many patients live with less pain and less severe symptoms.
Why Choose Weill Cornell Medicine for Sciatica Treatment?
The physicians at the Weill Cornell Medicine Division of Pain Management specialize in diagnosing and treating sciatica. We work with a broad team of specialists to help our patients regain independence, functionality, and improve quality of life.
After assessing your case, we will tailor a treatment plan that may include medication, pain management, and physical therapy. When surgery is part of the plan, we offer the most advanced minimally invasive techniques.
In addition, Weill Cornell Medicine often offers clinical trials, giving patients access to treatments that may not be available elsewhere. Learn more about Pain Management's current clinical trials.
The Center for Comprehensive Spine Care is made up of Neurology, Pain Management, Neurosurgery, Physiatry, Radiology, and Psychology—providing world-class sciatica pain treatment in New York City. Our specialists take a multi-disciplinary, patient-centered approach to care.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.