Sciatic Neuropathy Guide: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment Options (2022)

Sciatic neuropathy or a type of lumbar radiculopathy refers to the pain that occurs along the path of the sciatic nerve.

The pain goes from your lower back through the hips and buttocks and then down the legs. Sciatic typically affects just one side of the body.

Most often, it occurs when a herniated disc, narrowing of the spine, or bone spur compresses a part of the nerve.

This results in inflammation, numbness, and pain in the affected limb. The pain related to sciatica is severe, but non-operative treatments can resolve the issue within a few weeks.

People who experience several cases of sciatic pain normally experience weakness in the leg or changes in the bowel movements and bladder. In that case, they will require surgery.

Common Symptoms

(Video) Sciatica: signs and symptoms, causes, treatment, animation

Causes

Are You at Risk?

Worst-Case Scenarios

Treatment Options

Medications

Physical Therapy

Steroid Injections

Surgery

(Video) Sciatica, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Summary

(Video) How To Treat Sciatica - Effective Home Exercise Progression For Sciatic Nerve Pain

Common Symptoms

Sciatic Neuropathy Guide: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment Options (1)

If you experience one or more of the following symptoms of sciatic neuropathy, you need to consult with a doctor:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the leg or rear, which becomes worse when you are sitting down
  • Hip pain
  • Burning or tingling feeling down your leg
  • Numbness or weakness that makes it difficult to move your leg or foot
  • Continuous pain on one side of your rear
  • Shooting pain that makes it difficult for you to stand up

Sciatic affects only one part of your lower body and it extends from your lower back and down the back of your thigh and down through your leg. The type of pain you experience depends on the location of the affected sciatic nerve.

There is a possibility that you can experience pain in your toes or foot. You may feel intense pain from sciatic neuropathy, which can incapacitate you. Others might feel an irritating and infrequent pain with the possibility of it becoming worse with time.

Causes

Sciatic neuropathy occurs when the root or roots of the lower lumbar and lumbar-sacral spine become irritated. Some of the common reasons that can cause a person to develop sciatic neuropathy include:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis narrows the spinal canal in the lower back
  • Degenerative disc disease breaks the discs down, which then serves as the cushions between the vertebrae
  • Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of your vertebrae slips forward into another one
  • Pregnancy
  • Muscles spasms in the buttocks or back
  • Compressed nerve due to a tumor
  • Damaged nerve due to diabetes or some other medical condition

Are You at Risk?

You are at an increased risk of developing sciatic neuropathy if the one or more of the following signs are true for you:

  • As you age, there is a chance your spine may undergo changes, resulting in bone spurs and herniated discs, which are both common causes of sciatic neuropathy.
  • Obesity can increase stress on your spine, placing unnecessary pressure on it. The excess body weight can cause changes to your spine, which then can cause you to develop sciatic neuropathy.
  • If your work requires you to twist your back, drive a motor vehicle for long durations, or carry heavy loads, you may develop sciatic neuropathy. However, research has yet to provide conclusive evidence to back up this claim.
  • If you sit in one place for long hours each day or live a non-active lifestyle, you are more at risk for developing sciatic neuropathy than people with an active lifestyle.
  • If you suffer from diabetes, a medical condition which changes the way your body utilizes blood sugar, your risk for developing sciatic neuropathy is more than people without diabetes.

Worst-Case Scenarios

Sciatic neuropathy usually disappears within 3 to 6 weeks with people not experiencing sciatica again or only once or two times in their lifetime. However, there are worst-case scenarios where sciatic debilitates a person for brief periods, but often, it causes frustrating pain that makes performing regular activities difficult. They will be able to perform tasks, but not without experiencing any pain.

According to statistics,20% of people will experiencechronic and/or recurrent sciatic neuropathy. An even smaller number of people will experiencesciatic neuropathy for a lifetime. They with either experience sciatic pain every day of their life or episodic pain that will always return.

If the person has been experiencing the pain for quite some time, there is a significant risk that it candamage the function of the nervous system, changing the way it interprets pain. Known as central sensitization, the central nervous system becomes oversensitive to pain.

Treatment Options

If you are experiencing sciatic neuropathy pain, you need to visit your doctor.

Some signs that indicate it is time to visit your doctor to confirm if what you are experiencing is nerve pain due to sciatica include:

(Video) How Bad is Your Sciatica? Let's Check for Nerve Root Damage.

  • You experience unexpected and severe pain in your lower back or leg and numbness or muscle weakness in one of your legs.
  • You feel intense pain after you have suffered from a violent injury in a car accident.
  • You no longer have control over your bladder or bowel.
Sciatic Neuropathy Guide: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment Options (2)

When you visit your doctor, he/she will perform a physical exam, checking for muscle strength and reflexes. For instance, your doctor may ask you to walk on the heels or toes of your feet, sit up from a squatting position, and tell you to lay on your back and lift one of your leg in the air followed by the other leg.

If you feel pain while performing these activities, your doctor will tell you to get certain tests done to confirm your diagnosis. Your doctor will ask you to get one or more of the following tests done:

  • X-raysare the most common tests doctors perform, as it reveals the cause of neuropathy sciatic, which in most cases is due to a herniated disc or bone spur.
  • Magnetic resonance imagingorMRIis a procedure that utilizes a powerful magnet and radio waves to generate cross-sectional images of the back. Doctors perform an MRI on people suspected of having sciatic neuropathy because it reveals detailed images of the soft tissues and bone, such as a herniated disc. You will have to lie on the table that moves you into the MRI machine.
  • Computed tomographyorCTinvolves the doctor injecting a contrast dye into the spinal canal before they take the X-rays. This procedure is known as CT myelogram. Once the dye has been injected into the spine, it moves around the spinal nerves and spinal cord, which look white on the scan.
  • ElectromyographyorEMGmeasures the electrical impulses that the nerves produce as well as how your muscle responds. The test confirms if your sciatic neuropathy is due to a herniated disc compressing a nerve or narrowing of the spinal canal known as spinal stenosis.

Once your diagnosis has been revealed, the doctor will then proceed to reveal your treatment options for sciatic neuropathy.

Your doctor will ask you to take preventive measures, such as cold packs, hot packs, stretching, and over-the-counter medication, to reduce the nerve pain, but depending on the severity of your nerve pain, it may take the following approach to treat your sciatic neuropathy:

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe you the following medications for sciatic pain:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Narcotics
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Anti-seizure medications

If you are taking any other medication for any other medical condition, you need to let your doctor know beforehand.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can improve acute nerve pain. Either your doctor or a physical therapist will design a rehabilitation program to decrease your risk of experiencing future injuries. This involves helping you correct your posture, improving your flexibility, and strengthening the muscles that support your back.Yoga may also be recommended for neuropathysince it is low impact and greatly improves circulation and flexibility.

Steroid Injections

Doctors may suggest you can get a steroid injection containing corticosteroid medication. The doctor will inject it into the areas that involve the nerve root. Corticosteroid injections suppress inflammation around the affected nerve, which in return reduces pain.

However, the effects of the corticosteroid inject wear off after a few months. Your doctor will determine the number of steroid injections you need to receive, as getting them more frequently can increase your risk of suffering from serious side effects.

Surgery

Your doctor will only recommend surgery if your compressed nerve is causing extreme weakness, you feel that the pain is progressively getting worse, loss of bladder or bowel control, or therapies fail to improve your nerve pain. Your surgeon will remove a part of the herniated disc or the bone spur that is compressing your nerve.

(Video) What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain?

If you are experiencing sciatic neuropathy, you need to consult with your doctor, as it can get worse as more time goes by. If nothing helps, surgery may be your last option to relieve sciatic pain. You will need to talk to your doctor to find out if surgery is the right option for you.

Summary

Sciatic nerve pain can be challenging to live with, but not impossible to deal with. By meeting with your doctor to understand the root cause, you can begin to implement the right treatment plan for your symptoms and reduce pain over time.

FAQs

What causes sciatic neuropathy? ›

Sciatic neuropathies caused by trauma, injection, infarction, or compression present acutely. Otherwise, most sciatic neuropathies present in a progressive, subacute fashion. Patients with a complete sciatic neuropathy have paralysis of knee flexion and all movements about the ankle and toes.

How can I relieve sciatic nerve pain permanently? ›

The two main surgical options for sciatica are diskectomy and laminectomy. Diskectomy. During this procedure, your surgeon removes whatever is pressing on your sciatic nerve, whether it's a herniated disk, a bone spur, or something else.

Can sciatic neuropathy cured? ›

Most people recover fully from sciatica, often without treatment. But sciatica can damage nerves. Seek immediate medical attention for: Loss of feeling in the affected leg.

What is the difference between sciatica and neuropathy? ›

You usually feel more pain sitting with sciatica - it can flare up in the morning and may change as you move around. But with neuropathy, the pain is more consistent, and you may have more sensitivity to touch, like from socks and shoes touching your feet.

Is walking good for a sciatic nerve problem? ›

Walking is a surprisingly effective approach for relieving sciatic pain because regular walking spurs the release of pain-fighting endorphins and reduces inflammation.

How long does it take to heal sciatic nerve? ›

Sciatica is where the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your feet, is irritated or compressed. It usually gets better in 4 to 6 weeks but can last longer.

What is the root cause of neuropathy? ›

Nutritional or vitamin imbalances, alcoholism, and exposure to toxins can damage nerves and cause neuropathy. Vitamin B12 deficiency and excess vitamin B6 are the best known vitamin-related causes. Several medications have been shown to occasionally cause neuropathy.

What is the most common cause of neuropathy? ›

Diabetes. This is the most common cause. Among people with diabetes, more than halfwill develop some type of neuropathy.

Can an MRI detect sciatic nerve damage? ›

The cause of sciatic nerve pain is usually diagnosed using an MRI. Patients are not exposed to radiation. In addition, this procedure causes no pain and requires no recovery time.

Does drinking water help sciatica? ›

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be consuming 100 fluid ounces of water daily. And getting rid of sciatica pain makes this no different. If you're wearing a mask or you workout, you need to drink even more water than this. Aim for 75-100 percent of your weight in fluid ounces of water.

Can a doctor fix a sciatic nerve? ›

Family doctors and general practitioners can diagnose and treat simple cases of sciatica. Chiropractors and physical therapists also treat people with sciatica. A neurologist, or physician who specializes in the nervous system, is the best person to manage severe sciatica.

Can you reverse sciatic nerve damage? ›

Sciatica can and does come back, especially when a person has a chronic medical condition. People who do not make lifestyle changes to prevent more sciatic pain may also redevelop symptoms. However, for most people, sciatica heals on its own within a month or two.

How do you Unpinch a sciatic nerve? ›

This Weird Trick Relieves Sciatic Nerve Pain - YouTube

Can sitting cause neuropathy? ›

Can I Get Nerve Damage From Sitting Too Much? You won't feel the effects overnight, but the answer is yes. Sitting for long periods of time can slowly damage your nerves. In a recent study, researchers found that 70% of participants had lower physical activities today than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is sciatic nerve pain a form of neuropathy? ›

Sciatic neuropathy can be the result of any focal lesion of the nerve in the hip or thigh, distal to the lumbosacral plexus but proximal to the separation of the nerve into its distal branches.

Can sciatica cause neurological problems? ›

While sciatica can heal without treatment, the process is usually long and painful—and may lead to permanent neurological damage. Sciatica's symptoms may also be confused with other, more serious neurological disorders like lumbar spinal stenosis.

Is it better to walk or lay down with sciatica? ›

Even though it seems incongruous—as in, it probably hurts to some degree—walking is actually good for sciatica. Dr. Shah points out that walking promotes blood flow throughout the body, and can even make the nerves more resilient.

What are the 4 types of sciatica? ›

Types of Sciatica
  • Acute sciatica. Acute sciatica is a recent onset, 4 to 8-week duration of sciatic nerve pain. ...
  • Chronic sciatica. Chronic sciatica is persistent sciatic nerve pain that lasts for more than 8 weeks and usually does not subside with self-management. ...
  • Alternating sciatica. ...
  • Bilateral sciatica.

Can a chiropractor help sciatica? ›

The bottom line. A chiropractor might be able to help relieve sciatica pain. Using spinal manipulation techniques and other natural practices, chiropractors can help relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve.

Is sciatic nerve damage permanent? ›

If the sciatic nerve is damaged, it could result in numbness, tingling and, in more severe cases, weakness in the knees or legs. The longer it is left untreated, the longer it will take for numbness and weakness to go away, and they may become permanent.

What is the fastest way to get rid of neuropathy? ›

Exercise. Regular exercise, such as walking three times a week, can reduce neuropathy pain, improve muscle strength and help control blood sugar levels. Gentle routines such as yoga and tai chi might also help. Quit smoking.

What foods should I avoid with neuropathy? ›

Sugary Snacks: Snacks or desserts such as ice cream, cookies, candy, and even excess fruit consumption should be avoided by neuropathy patients. High levels of blood sugar impact nerve damage especially in those with diabetic neuropathy.

What is the latest treatment for neuropathy? ›

The most effective treatment was nortriptyline. Of the study subjects taking this medication, 25% reported their discomfort improved by at least 50%. The least effective treatment was pregabalin: only 15% of study subjects reported that much improvement. Side effects were common with all of the treatments.

What autoimmune disease causes neuropathy? ›

(Neuropathy means nerve disease or damage.) Autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues, can lead to nerve damage. Sjogren's syndrome, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis are among the autoimmune diseases that can be associated with peripheral neuropathy.

How do you get tested for neuropathy? ›

Confirming if you have a neuropathy

a nerve conduction test (NCS), where small metal wires called electrodes are placed on your skin that release tiny electric shocks to stimulate your nerves; the speed and strength of the nerve signal is measured.

What can make neuropathy worse? ›

Smoking and Drinking Alcohol

Cigarettes and alcohol have a toxic effect on nerve tissue. Heavy drinking makes neuropathy worse. Vitamins and minerals are essential for your body functions but smoking and drinking can alter the level of minerals and vitamins that are needed for proper nerve function.

How does a doctor test for sciatica? ›

Your doctor will likely conduct a slump test and straight leg raise test to check your sciatic nerve pain. They might also conduct imaging tests (X-ray, MRI, or CT scans) to further assess the situation.

What makes sciatica pain worse? ›

So what factors trigger sciatica and make it worse? Anything that puts more pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause sciatica symptoms to flare up. This includes sitting too much, wearing uncomfortable footwear or too tight pants, sleeping in a wrong position, and being inactive.

Does sugar affect sciatica? ›

Which Foods Make Sciatica Worse. To avoid these foods, you'll have to develop the habit of reading labels on any prepared foods. Here are the inflammatory foods to avoid: Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

What are the warning signs of neuropathy? ›

Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy might include: Gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms. Sharp, jabbing, throbbing or burning pain. Extreme sensitivity to touch.

What happens if sciatic nerve pain is left untreated? ›

If the sciatic nerve is damaged, it could result in numbness, tingling and, in more severe cases, weakness in the knees or legs. The longer it is left untreated, the longer it will take for numbness and weakness to go away, and they may become permanent.

What is the best treatment for neuropathy in your feet and legs? ›

Regular exercise, such as walking three times a week, can reduce neuropathy pain, improve muscle strength and help control blood sugar levels. Gentle routines such as yoga and tai chi might also help.

What causes neuropathy to flare up? ›

Nutritional or vitamin imbalances, alcoholism, and exposure to toxins can damage nerves and cause neuropathy. Vitamin B12 deficiency and excess vitamin B6 are the best known vitamin-related causes. Several medications have been shown to occasionally cause neuropathy.

What foods should I avoid with neuropathy? ›

Sugary Snacks: Snacks or desserts such as ice cream, cookies, candy, and even excess fruit consumption should be avoided by neuropathy patients. High levels of blood sugar impact nerve damage especially in those with diabetic neuropathy.

How do you get tested for neuropathy? ›

Confirming if you have a neuropathy

a nerve conduction test (NCS), where small metal wires called electrodes are placed on your skin that release tiny electric shocks to stimulate your nerves; the speed and strength of the nerve signal is measured.

What's the latest treatment for neuropathy? ›

The most effective treatment was nortriptyline. Of the study subjects taking this medication, 25% reported their discomfort improved by at least 50%. The least effective treatment was pregabalin: only 15% of study subjects reported that much improvement. Side effects were common with all of the treatments.

Does drinking water help sciatica? ›

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be consuming 100 fluid ounces of water daily. And getting rid of sciatica pain makes this no different. If you're wearing a mask or you workout, you need to drink even more water than this. Aim for 75-100 percent of your weight in fluid ounces of water.

How long is too long for sciatica pain? ›

Sciatica becomes chronic if it lasts longer than 6 weeks and does not improve. Doctors usually recommend waiting for the issue to resolve without medical treatment unless the pain is excruciating or lasts for more than 12 months.

Can you become paralyzed from sciatica? ›

The most common symptom of sciatica is severe and burning pain down one leg, the buttocks, lower back, or in the foot. In the most extreme cases, the pain may be so intense that it can cause paralysis, muscle weakness or total numbness, which occurs when the nerve is pinched between the adjacent bone and disc.

Does Vicks Vapor Rub help neuropathy pain? ›

Vicks Vapor Rub® – Massaging one's feet with Vicks, particularly at night, soothes neuropathic pain and distress in one's feet and legs. It is also excellent for softening your toe nails and diminishing common toe nail problems.

What is the most common treatment for neuropathy? ›

The main medicines recommended for neuropathic pain include: amitriptyline – also used for treatment of headaches and depression. duloxetine – also used for treatment of bladder problems and depression. pregabalin and gabapentin – also used to treat epilepsy, headaches or anxiety.

How do you stop neuropathy from progressing? ›

These changes can include:
  1. Losing weight.
  2. Exercising.
  3. Monitoring blood sugar levels.
  4. Not smoking.
  5. Limiting alcohol.
  6. Making sure injuries and infections don't go unnoticed or untreated (this is particularly true for people who have neuropathies of diabetes).
  7. Improving vitamin deficiencies.
17 Jan 2020

What is the most painful type of neuropathy? ›

The most common painful neuropathies are diabetic neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgia, for which epidemiological data are available [7, 33, 49].

What vitamins are good for nerve damage? ›

B Vitamins

Vitamins B-1, B-6, and B-12 have been found to be especially beneficial for treating neuropathy. Vitamin B-1, also known as thiamine, helps to reduce pain and inflammation and vitamin B-6 preserves the covering on nerve endings.

What is the life expectancy with neuropathy? ›

There are several key factors that affect a patient's prognosis in familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP), but most people with the rare, inherited, progressive disease have a life expectancy of about 10 years after being diagnosed.

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