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Sciatica: Why Do I Have It, and How Can I Get Relief?

Sciatica: Why Do I Have It, and How Can I Get Relief?

Your spine is an amazing structure, with bony vertebrae stacked into a column interspersed with cushiony intervertebral discs to absorb shock and held together by facet joints that allow for a range of movement. Inside the column is the spinal canal through which the spinal cord runs, branching off peripheral nerves between the vertebrae to head to the rest of the body.

Unfortunately, with so many parts, and with an adequate but not voluminous space to run delicate nerves, there’s a lot that can go wrong. If the canal space narrows or a disc herniates, for example, the structures can impinge on nerve roots, causing pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. If this happens to the sciatic nerve at the L4-L5 or L5-S1 junction, it causes a condition known as sciatica.

At Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas, board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Glickman and his staff understand how uncomfortable sciatica can be, which is why they offer a number of treatment options at their Las Vegas office. Here, they talk about some of the most common causes of sciatica and how you can get relief.

How sciatica develops

Sciatica is common, a condition that 40% of Americans experience at some point during their lives. It can result from any of a number of problems, all of which lead to a “pinched” nerve root.


As you get older, your entire body shows signs of wear-and-tear, including your spine. Two of the most common causes of sciatica become more prevalent as you get older. The first is herniated discs, where the intervertebral discs lose moisture, and their outer shells break. The inner gel spills out and compresses the nerve root.

The second is bone spurs, bony growths that develop from the friction of one vertebra rubbing against another, with the extension entering the canal space and putting pressure on the nerve.

Carrying extra pounds

Excess weight stresses your entire body, and that includes your spine. A 2014 study found an association for both men and women between being overweight and developing sciatica. Adopting a healthy diet and a regular exercise regimen can help you lose weight and reduce your pain. And in the process, you also improve your cardiovascular and overall health. 

Occupational hazards

Jobs that require sitting for long periods of time, say, a desk job or driving a truck, increase your chances of developing sciatica compared to people who are active throughout the day. That’s especially true if you don’t have an ergonomically designed work setup and you don’t maintain good posture while sitting. Both put extra pressure on the spine and compromise the nerves.

Also, jobs that require you to routinely bend and twist or lift heavy objects increase your risk for developing sciatica, as you increase the load on your spine and subject it to constant wear-and-tear. 

How can I get relief?

Sciatica generally responds well to conservative treatments, which is where we always start. Our goals are to relieve your pain and improve the underlying problem(s) contributing to your discomfort.

Oral medications, such as over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), relieve pain by decreasing inflammation. If they don’t work well enough, we can prescribe something stronger.

Steroid injections contain both a fast-acting anesthetic to immediately dull the pain and a longer-acting steroid to combat the inflammation. We inject it directly into the joint, muscle, or disc that’s causing the problem, which can eliminate your symptoms for several months at a time. That provides you with the opportunity to engage in the third treatment option — physical therapy.

Physical therapy (PT) improves your flexibility while strengthening tissues in the lower back, pelvis, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.

The goals of PT for sciatica treatment are to:

Physical therapy can be combined with other pain-relieving treatments, including medication, injections, and/or a surgical procedure such as an artificial disc replacement or a spinal fusion to stabilize the damaged area. The more you practice the stretches and exercises you’re given, the better you’ll feel.

If you’re dealing with the pain and weakness of sciatica and need relief, Center for Neurosurgery Las Vegas is where you want to be. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Glickman, call our office at 702-929-8242, text us at 725-210-0057, or book your appointment online.

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