Is sciatica always caused by a damaged disc or a problem with the spinal nerve roots?
|Sciatica or radicular pain is pain that shoots down the leg from an irritated nerve. Often a herniated disc causes the nerve irritation. When the nerve pain is from an irritated spinal nerve root, that pain is called radicular pain. The nerves can be irritated at a location further down into the buttocks or legs, including at the sciatic nerve. All of these pains are commonly called sciatica. This procedure treats sciatica that is caused by a disc protrusion that irritates the spinal nerve roots; it will not help if the sciatica comes from a location further down in the buttocks or leg.|
How do I know if my back or leg pain is from a damaged disc?
|The wall of the spinal discs can get cracks or fissures as we age, and the discs can degenerate naturally. This is known as internal disc disruption or degenerative disc disease. Disc degeneration, bulging or protrusion can also come from an injury. If the wall is damaged or weakened, the disc might develop a very prominent bulge that we often call a herniated disc. When the disc causes back pain, the pain is usually felt as a deep, aching pain in the back and sometimes in the buttocks and into the thigh. When the disc causes leg pain, the pain is usually felt as a sharp, electric, stinging pain in the buttocks and into the thigh, calf or foot. This leg pain is called radicular or nerve root pain and is commonly referred to as sciatica by many patients. Not all back or leg pain comes from disc damage. MRIs and other studies of the discs can often help to predict if the pain is from a damaged disc.|
What is a herniated disc?
|The disc functions as a shock absorber between the vertebra of the spine. A herniated disc has a defect or weakness in the wall, similar to a "blister" in the sidewall of a tire, which can lead to pressure on sensitive nerve roots and pain receptors in the back.|