Lumbar Radiculopathy & Sciatica

Pain from an injury or irritation to a nerve’s root as it exits from the vertebrae may radiate down the leg toward the right or left foot. One can feel weakness or numbness in the affected area. Known as lumbar radiculopathy, the condition could be caused by a narrow spinal canal or stenosis, or from a disc that is displaced and compressing the nerve. The intensity of pain varies dramatically, from a dull non-localized ache to a precise sharp and burning sensation.

Sciatica is a type of lumbar radiculopathy that affects the large sciatic nerve, where nerve roots come together in the buttock. Sciatica pain is a sharp, often shooting sensation that radiates down from the buttock to the back of the thigh and into the leg. It often feels like a stabbing pain deep in the buttock and grows worse with sitting.

Why it hurts:

The nerve roots are branches of the spinal cord that carry signals to the rest of the body at each level along the spine. The pain is felt in the muscles, ligaments, joints, and skin served by the affected nerve root. With sciatica, a common cause is a protruding disc that presses on the sciatic nerve or the roots that make up the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve can also be compressed in the deep muscles of the buttock. Often times, the chemicals contained within the disc may irritate the nerve.

Signs and symptoms (may include one or more):

  • Stabbing pain in the buttock (sciatica)
  • Dull non-localized ache
  • Back pain going down one leg
  • Leg cramping
  • Numbness in the leg to the foot
  • Burning pain down the back of the leg
  • Symptoms worsening with sitting, coughing, or sneezing
  • Weakness
  • Tingling

Non-surgical treatment options

  • Relative rest for a few weeks
  • Heat or cold to release spasms and reduce pain
  • Stretching exercises
  • Heating modalities, including laser therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Muscle relaxant medications
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories/oral steroid medications
  • Neuropathic pain medications
  • Opioid/narcotic medications
  • Opioid/narcotic medications
  • Epidural steroid injections