Anyone who has suffered from sciatica, a symptom referring to the pain that starts in the low back and radiates into one or both hips, buttocks and legs, knows how miserable it can be. Sciatica can manifest itself as anything from a stabbing, shooting pain to a burning ache that makes it difficult to get comfortable to a tingly sensation or weakness in the legs, or a combination of all of these sensations. Sciatica isn’t a disease, but rather the symptom of a mechanical dysfunction affecting the nerves in the lower part of the spine.
When there is disorder or inflammation in the low back, the spinal nerves that pass into the legs can become irritated or pinched. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or “slipped” disc, where two adjacent vertebrae undergo enough pressure that the cushioning gel between them is forced outward. This “gel” can press against the nerves running from the low back into the legs.
Other common causes of sciatica are injury or inflammation of the piriformis muscle that sits within the buttocks, and can radiate pain into the hips and legs; spondylolisthesis, a condition wherein two vertebrae are pushed out of line and impinge a nerve; and spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that can cause friction against nerve roots. “A physical exam and appropriate diagnostic tests can help us determine the specific cause of sciatic pain so that an effective course of treatment can be developed,” says Board Certified neurosurgeon Mark Oliver from Ocala Neurosurgical Center (ONC). “Luckily we have tremendous success with non-invasive treatments for sciatica, making surgery unnecessary for most sufferers.”
Treatment for sciatica includes a change in resting platforms and/or postures, physical therapy and medication to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. “We outline a series of stretching and strengthening exercises and corrections of bad habits that can reduce pressure on low back nerves and eliminate sciatic pain now and help prevent its recurrence,” says Dr. Oliver. “With a little commitment, these methods can have a remarkably positive impact.”
In certain cases, patients can also benefit from spinal injections of an anti-inflammatory steroid directly into affected areas of the spine. Once the inflammation is under control, pressure on spinal nerves is relieved and pain subsides.
“When other protocols fail to provide adequate relief, a patient may benefit from surgery,” says Dr. Oliver. “The surgical team at ONC performs something known as a laminectomy, in which the lamina, the back part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal, is removed, creating more open space for the spinal nerves, and microdiscectomy, in which pieces of a herniated disc that are irritating the nerves are removed. Both can be highly effective solutions when more conservative methods prove to be inadequate.”
Whatever the cause, sciatic pain can drastically impact one’s quality of life. If you suffer from chronic or recurring sciatic pain, talk to your doctor about a referral to Ocala Neurosurgical Center. It could mean saying goodbye to sciatica and hello to more comfortable and active living.
MARK D. OLIVER, MD
• In practice of neurosurgery since joining Ocala Neurosurgery Center in 1998
• Board Certified in Neurological Surgery by the American Board of
• Medical Degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in
• Chief Resident at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa
with specialized training in complex spinal disorders
• Fellowship in neuroscience spinal cord injury at Eastern Virginia School of
Medicine in Norfolk, Virginia
• Certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners
• On staff at Munroe Regional Medical Center & Ocala Regional Medical Center
Dr. Oliver is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Florida Neurological Society, the Florida Medical Association and the Marion County Medical Society.
Dr. Mark Oliver, his partner neurosurgeons, Dr. Daniel Robertson and Dr. Antonio DiSclafani, and their talented support team are dedicated to providing unsurpassed diagnostic and therapeutic care for a range of neurological and spinal disorders. Our foremost mission is to help you return to a life of health, comfort and vitality.