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What Is Sciatica and How Is It Treated?

Sciatica (lumbar radiculopathy) is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine, or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the nerve. This causes inflammation, pain, and often some numbness in the affected leg.

Although the pain associated with sciatica can be severe, most cases resolve with non-operative treatments in a few weeks. People who have severe sciatica that’s associated with significant leg weakness or bowel or bladder changes might be candidates for surgery.

Other common lower back problems that can cause sciatica symptoms include a lumbar herniated discdegenerative disc diseasespondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis.

woman in striped shirt holding lower back in pain

Sciatica Nerve Pain

Sciatica is often characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely in both legs)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling, or searing (versus a dull ache)
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, and/or toes
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk
  • Pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes (it rarely occurs only in the foot

Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Symptoms are usually based on the location of the pinched nerve.

physical therapist holding man's middle back

Sciatica Treatments

Our expert sciatica pain specialists may recommend any of the following pinched nerve treatments for sciatica:

  • Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
  • Oral cortisone to help treat milder forms of sciatica pain
  • Epidural steroid injections to help treat severe pain
  • Exercise programs to help keep your spinal discs healthy and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve
  • Surgery (in severe cases that don’t resolve with non-surgical treatments), such as lumbar laminectomy or microdiscectomy. Read more about surgery for radiculopathy here.

A Patient-Centered Approach to Care

The physicians at Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian at the Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Comprehensive Spine Care provide world-class sciatica pain treatment in New York City. Contact us today at 888-922-2257 to schedule an appointment with one of our esteemed New York sciatica doctors.

We’ve Got Your Back

For more information about our treatment options, contact our office today.