Sciatica is a result of pain that begins in the lower back and radiates downward, into the legs – sometimes in only one leg or both. While no athlete would ever wish this pain on themselves, cyclists have become familiar with this painful phenomena. With extreme demands on the physical form in Olympic events, athletes suffering from unpredictable spine problems (like acute sciatica) often will push through this pain. This may work for them, a testament to their physical and mental prowess, but is not encouraged for normal patients who should seek rest and medication.
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The sciatic nerve runs down both legs from the lower back. Radiating pain can manifest along this nerve resulting in sciatica. In cases where this pain is a result of a lumbar disc degeneration, a microdiscectomy is an option. In a microdiscectomy, a small opening is made and a portion of the herniated disc is removed – relieving the pinched nerve. Typically, this surgery is recommended after non-invasive or non-surgical means have failed within a time period of about 4 to 6 weeks or otherwise determined by the doctor.
There are non-surgical solutions for the management of low back pain and sciatica (pressure on sciatic nerves). Among these treatment solutions are epidural steroid injections. In most cases, these injections are performed in conjunction with a rehabilitation program. However, these are sometimes administered on their own with positive results.
Sciatic pain is a common and disabling symptom that frequently occurs in various degenerative lumbar spine disorders. Mechanical nerve root compression is identified as one important pathomechanism of sciatica; however, nerve root compression can exist without sciatic pain. Myelographic, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have demonstrated that disk herniation and spinal stenosis exist in at least 20% to 30% of individuals without any symptoms of sciatic pain. ¹
¹Garfin MD, Steven. Orthopaedic Knowledge Update : Spine. Rosemont: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 1997.