Health & Wellness

When a Pain In The Back Becomes a Pain In The Legs


Sciatica is one of those words that we hear quite often but do not always understand.  Many patients have come to us telling us that they have Sciatica and want to have it treated.  However, most of them are unaware that Sciatica is not actually a condition but rather a symptom of an underlying condition.  

Sciatica is classified by an intense shooting pain or burning down the leg and hip that can be persistent or intermittent.  This can also be accompanied by weakness or numbness in the affected leg.  This pain is often aggravated by strenuous activity or prolonged periods of sitting or standing.  Those who suffer from Sciatica often find it difficult to climb stairs, walk long distances or get a good nights sleep.

At each level of the spine there are nerve roots that exit on either side and control a motor or neurological function.  Impingement or irritation to these nerves may manifest as a variety of symptoms depending on the vertebral level.  As mentioned, Sciatica is a symptom and two of the most common causes are herniated discs of the lumbar spine and spinal stenosis.  Both of these conditions can irritate the nerve roots that exit the lumbar spine, causing the symptoms common to Sciatica.  

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Herniated lumbar discs occur when the fibrous outer lining of the intervertebral disc becomes ruptured causing the gelatinous fluid inside to leak out.  This protrusion can often enter into the spinal canal or press onto the nerve roots.  In the case of Sciatica, it is most often the nerve between the L4 - L5 vertebrae.

Similarly, spinal stenosis can also cause nerve irritation.  Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal and is often a part of the aging process.  As we age, the space around the spinal canal may shrink causing increased pressure on the nerves.  When these nerves become entrapped, specifically the nerves as L4 - L5, Sciatic symptoms often follow.

Luckily, there are several effective treatment options to relieve Sciatic pain, including Minimally Invasive Spine Procedures.  These procedures utilize a very small incision to decompress the nerves and relieve the symptoms.  In many instances, these procedures are performed on an outpatient basis with the patient returning home the same day.  Furthermore, the use of this small incision eliminates unnecessary dissection of muscle and tissue and substantially reduces recovery time.  

Dr. Mitchell Reiter and Dr. Mark Drzala of New Jersey Spine Specialists are pioneers in the field of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery.  Both are Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Spine Surgeons who have dedicated their practice to the diagnosis and treatment of chronic spinal conditions.  They are among the most awarded spine surgeons in New Jersey having both received several local and national awards.

If you are suffering from chronic Sciatic symptoms please contact their Summit office to discuss your treatment options.  Call 908-608-9619 or visit

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