Is it Sciatic Nerve Pain?

Lower back issues that cause sciatica are common in older adults. It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a general term that refers to any pain in distribution of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a long nerve, originating from the spine in the lower back region, diverging into two pathways at the buttocks and running down the leg (2).

Sciatica 3D Illistration

One of the main sciatic nerve functions is to connect your central nervous system to your legs. You use your sciatic nerve to help bend your knees, toes, and feet (1). The sciatic nerve is a large, major nerve in the circulatory system, so injury is common, but the actual cause of pain is infrequently found only in the sciatic nerve. Sciatica occurs most frequently because some lower back problem a patient experiences causes a pinching of the sciatic nerve, which sends shooting pain down one leg (2).

How sciatica can be caused by lower back issues

The sciatic nerve is comprised of 4 spinal nerves originating from your lumbar spine vertebrae in the lower back and the disks in between them (4). The disks, short cylindrical gelatinous structures with a firm outer protection, function to separate the vertebrae and allow them to move smoothly, but if a disk rips, bulges, or tears, it can cause what is called a herniated disk, which is one of the common causes of sciatica (4). The bulging of the disk onto the spinal nerve pushes it, which causes pain to travel down the leg. Spondylolisthesis, an instance where a vertebra moves and is no longer in line with the vertebra above or below it can cause the exposed bone pieces to pinch the spinal nerve, which can also cause immense pain (4). Other possible culprits of sciatica are osteoarthritis, which occurs as a result of aging, a traumatic blow to the sciatic nerve or the lower back, or even a tumor growing near the spine and pinching the sciatic nerve (concerning, but rare) (4). Spinal stenosis in older adults where the spinal nerves become compressed in the spinal canal is another significant cause of sciatica.

Symptoms

Sciatic pain can occur anywhere from the lower back, the buttocks, and the leg, or even down the entire nerve (3). The pain can be mild, but it is frequently described as sharp, stabbing, or burning (3). It is not uncommon to feel numb or tingly in the problem areas as well, especially the leg or foot (3). Sciatic nerve pain may come and go, and it often gets worse with movement—a sudden movement could send a quick jolt of white-hot pain down the leg. These symptoms make sciatica a very difficult pain to live with. It is important not to self diagnose health problems, so if you believe you are experiencing sciatic nerve pain, don’t wait; see a non-surgical doctor soon.

When to see a non-surgical doctor

It is possible for mild sciatica to fix itself with time, but that is not a solution to rely on. It is time to see a spine specialist when sciatica pain gets so severe that it is very difficult to walk, or even sit down at work, when you frequently lose your balance, when the symptoms have been present for over a month, or if you’ve been injured and start experiencing sciatica. These factors likely mean that sciatica is more serious and should be dealt with by a non-surgical medical professional.

 Platelet-Rich Plasma Procedure (PRP)

PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma, which is created by taking blood and concentrating the platelets in plasma. Why do this? The platelets in your blood are responsible for clotting. They also have growth factors in them which help stimulate repair of the damaged tissue. Think of growth factors like espresso shots for local repair cells. They stimulate other cells to do more work and can even call the needed repair cells to the area (5).

This type of treatment is non-invasive and requires less recovery time than a surgical procedure. Regenexx physicians use precise imaging techniques to inject platelets into the precise area that is causing pain (6).


If sciatica has become a problem, click the link below to learn more about Regenexx PRP treatments and see if a Regenexx procedure is right for you.

SOURCES:

[1] https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/sciatic-nerve-what-to-know

[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sciatica/symptoms-causes/syc-20377435

[3] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12792-sciatica

[4] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12768-herniated-disk

[5] https://regenexxpittsburgh.com/platelet-rich-plasma/

[6] https://regenexxpittsburgh.com/regenexx-spine/

About The Author
Dr. Paul Lieber

Dr. Paul Lieber

Dr. Paul Lieber

Dr. Paul Lieber

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At Regenexx Pittsburgh, we are foremost committed to the health and safety of our patients. Our team adheres strictly to COVID-19 protection protocols and ALL staff wear masks and are COVID-19 vaccinated.

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Certified at the highest level for Ankle / Foot, Wrist / Hand, Hip, Knee, Shoulder, and Spine Intradiscal

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Top available certifications in Diagnostic Ultrasound, Bone Marrow and Adipose Aspirate, and Nucleated Cell Counting

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Our doctors have earned both General Instructor as well as Spine Instructor certifications.

Knee

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions. View Details About Knee Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Meniscus Tears
  • Patellofemoral
  • Syndrome/Chondomalacia
  • ACL Tears + PCL, LCL & MCL Tears & Sprains
  • Patellar Tendonitis
  • Pes anersine bursitis
  • Baker’s cyst
  • Instability
  • Hamstrings Tendinopathy & Biceps Femoris Insertional Tendinopathy

Lower Spine

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions. View Details About Spine Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Lumbar Facet Injury
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Herniated or Bulging Disc
  • Radiculopathy (pinched nerve)
  • SI Joint Syndrome
  • Many More Disc and Low Back Issues

Cervical Spine

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions. View Details About Spine Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Cervical Instability
  • Cervical Facet Injury
  • Neck, Back or Rib Instability
  • Many More Disc and Cervical Issues Causing Pain

Foot & Ankle

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions. View Details About Foot & Ankle Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Ankle Instability
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Peroneal tendon tear or split
  • Ligament sprain or tear
  • Sub-talar arthritis or instability
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Bunions

Hip

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions. View Details About Hip Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Osteonecrosis
  • Bursitis
  • Tendinopathy
  • Labral / Labrum Tear

Elbow

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions. View Details About Elbow Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Instability
  • Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow
  • Nerve entrapment (ulnar nerve)

Shoulder

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions. View Details About Shoulder Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Arthritis of the shoulder joint
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Labral tears or degeneration
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis & tendonosis
  • AC Joint Separation
  • Recurrent shoulder dislocations

Hand & Wrist

Regenexx® Procedures are non-surgical injection treatments that are intended to help reduce pain and improve function for those who are suffering from pain due to common injuries, arthritis, and overuse conditions.

View Details About Hand & Wrist Treatments >

Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Hand Arthritis
  • Basal Joint Arthritis or CMC / Carpometacarpal
  • Arthritis
  • Instability
  • TFCC Tear
  • Carpal Tunnel SyndromeTrigger Finger