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Sciatica in New Jersey

If you have pain in your buttock and leg, you may have sciatica, a nerve-related condition that can be debilitating. For the residents of New Jersey, Performance Rehabilitation offers treatments for sciatica at our Totowa and Lafayette Township offices.

What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is actually a bundle of nerve roots that come out of the spine near the lower back. After passing through the lower back and buttocks, the sciatic nerve then branches off into each of the legs, ankles, and feet. When the nerve roots become irritated, it can lead to issues such as tingling, numbness, and pain. This is known as sciatica.

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica results from nerve endings that are pinched and are no longer functioning properly. The pinch can either take place in the spinal canal or lower down in the body before the sciatic nerve enters the legs.

A herniated or slipped disc that causes pressure on a nerve root is the most common cause of sciatica. Other conditions that cause sciatica are:

  • Spondylolisthesis – The vertebrae must be perfectly aligned with one another in order to create as large an opening as possible. When one vertebra shifts and is no longer in line with the one below it, it can narrow the passage and pinch the nerves causing spondylolisthesis.
  • Spinal stenosis – This is a condition in which the spinal cord actually becomes narrower and pinches the nerves.
  • Piriformis syndrome – The piriformis is a small muscle that lies deep in the buttocks. When this muscle spasms or becomes unnaturally tight, it can pinch the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica.

What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica is defined by ongoing pain that generally occurs in the lower back or buttocks and eventually moves down the legs. The pain can sometimes be felt slightly higher up in the back or all the way down to the patient’s feet. Numbness, tingling, and weakness may also occur in these areas. Any movements or positions that elongate the spine such as lying flat on one’s back or walking around may help to relieve the discomfort. Any movements that cause the spine to flex or twist such as sitting or standing for a long period of the time may make the pain worse.

How is Sciatica Diagnosed?

Diagnosing this condition requires a thorough review of the patient’s medical history, as well as a comprehensive exam. Without the proper testing, it can be difficult to determine what is causing sciatica or if it is even sciatica at all. One of the most common tests is referred to as the straight-leg raise test. The doctor will have the patient lie flat on his or her back and then lift one leg straight legs up until discomfort is felt. This will help determine the location of the pinch.

Other ways of diagnosing sciatica include:

  • Using an x-ray to look for any fractures of the spine
  • Taking images of the back with computed tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Performing nerve conduction velocity studies/electromyography to examine electrical impulses traveling through the sciatic nerve
  • Completing a myelogram exam, which uses injected dyes to determine if a specific disc is causing pain and discomfort

For the average patient, sciatica can be diagnosed and treated without the need for extensive testing

What is the Outlook for People with Sciatica?

Between 80% to 90% of all patients diagnosed with sciatica will get better without surgery. Many patients simply need time and rest in order to notice an improvement. The recovery time for most patients is around 6 weeks.

Can Sciatica be Prevented?

Issues such as spinal trauma and degenerative disc disease are not preventable, but the vast majority of patients can reduce their risk of developing sciatica with a few simple steps. Here is a closer look at some ways that you can reduce your risk by protecting your back:

  • If you must sit for long periods of the day, then make a point to get up and move around frequently
  • Perform exercises that will strengthen the muscles around your spine and cushion it from damage
  • Stop smoking
  • Learn and use proper lifting techniques. The best way to lift heavy objects is to keep your back straight at all times, keep the item near your chest, and use the muscles in your hips and legs to do the hard work
  • Focus on good posture at all times including while standing, sitting, and sleeping

Living with the effects of sciatica can make day-to-day tasks difficult. The physical therapists of Performance Rehabilitation, in Totowa and Lafayette Township in New Jersey, offer diagnosis and treatment of sciatica. Contact us today to schedule your personal consultation.