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Ioannis M Skaribas, MD, DABA, FASA -  - Anesthesiology

Expert Pain

Ioannis M Skaribas, MD, DABA, FASA

Anesthesiology & Pain Management located in Memorial Area, Houston, TX

Although its origins are in your lumbar spine, sciatica can often cause worse pain in your leg than your back. At Expert Pain in Houston, Texas, double board-certified pain specialist Ioannis Skaribas, MD, DABA, FASA, offers cutting-edge interventions to address the root of your sciatica, such as fluoroscopy-guided epidural steroid injections and Vertiflex® interspinous spacer implantation. To benefit from the most effective solutions for persistent sciatica, call Expert Pain today or book an appointment online.

Sciatica Q & A

What is sciatica? 

Sciatica is a common cause of lower back and leg pain that results from compression of the sciatic nerve in your lumbar spine. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction in your pelvis can also irritate the sciatic nerve, causing similar symptoms.

The sciatic nerve travels from the lower (lumbar) part of your back into your pelvis, then splits in two. Each branch of the nerve then heads down one leg to your foot. If something irritates or pressurizes the sciatic nerve, it can trigger the symptoms of sciatica. 

Nerve compression in the spine is known as radiculopathy. Sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy, but this kind of nerve condition can occur in your neck as well (cervical radiculopathy).

What causes sciatica?

Pressure on the sciatic nerve could come from various sources, such as:

  • Herniated lumbar discs
  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Spasming back or buttock muscles
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Degenerative disc disease

Sciatica is more likely to affect people who are overweight or don't exercise enough. It’s also a common problem in pregnancy due to increasing pressure on the lumbar spine as the fetus grows.

What symptoms does sciatica cause?

Pain that's worse when you sit down is the primary symptom of sciatica. It tends to be a shooting pain that follows the path of your sciatic nerve and could extend partway or all the way down your leg.

Most often, sciatica affects just one leg, although it's possible for both legs to be involved. Compression of the sciatic nerve can also cause symptoms such as:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Decreased mobility
  • "Pins-and-needles" sensation

Severe sciatica can affect your muscle control, leading to problems like bladder and bowel incontinence.

Sciatica sometimes resolves itself in a few weeks if you avoid activities that make it worse, apply ice packs to reduce inflammation, and take pain-relief medication. If your condition doesn't improve, you might benefit from physical therapy, but for some people, these conservative approaches fail to make much difference to their symptoms.

What treatments might I need for persistent sciatica?

At Expert Pain, sciatica treatments aim to remove the pressure on your sciatic nerve and relieve your symptoms. Epidural steroid injections can be very effective, as they contain cortisone, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that helps to reduce inflammation in tissues that are pressing on your sciatic nerve.

Nerve blocks are also injectable treatments, but your provider injects the medication into the nerve root rather than the epidural space. 

If your sciatica fails to improve despite these treatments, Expert Pain specializes in implanting spinal cord stimulation devices that use neurostimulation to disrupt the pain signals going to your brain.

If your sciatica is due to spinal stenosis, Vertiflex interspinous spacers can help by creating more space for the sciatic nerve. For patients experiencing sciatica-type pain due to sacroiliac joint dysfunction, LinQ™ sacroiliac joint fusion might prove beneficial.

To find out about these advanced options for treating sciatica, call Expert Pain today or book an appointment online.