What Is Sciatica?

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Sciatica is a condition that causes persistent pain along the sciatic nerve, running from the spine to the lower back. The nerve pain often radiates down one side of your body. In addition, sciatica can cause severe pain due to pressure from herniated disk or bone spur.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Sciatic nerve pain often has an underlying condition causing the symptoms:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease As you age, your spinal discs begin to weaken and shift. Over time, these motions accumulate, which can eventually irritate the associated nerves.
  • Herniated Lumbar Disc When a disc in the lumbar region of your spine becomes herniated, the fluid and tissue that leaks can irritate the sciatic nerve root.
  • Piriformis Syndrome The piriformis muscle in your buttock can occasionally impinge or irritate the sciatic nerve as it begins heading down your leg.
  • Spinal Stenosis Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can compress the nerves, causing sciatic pain.
  • Spondylolisthesis In spondylolisthesis, one vertebra will slip forward over another, pinching the spinal canal and irritating the nerve root.
  • Tumors Spine tumors, depending on their location, can also compress the sciatic nerve.

Pregnancy, injury or tissue damage, scar tissue, developing cancers or even certain types of infection can all be sciatica causes as well.

The team of dedicated spinal specialists and neurosurgeons at NSPC in Long Island is ready to help you treat any and all of your underlying sciatica causes.

  • Leg Pain
  • Burning and Tingling
  • Weakness/Numbness
  • Chronic Pain on One Side
  • Acute Pain When Rising
  • Most Relief When Lying Down

Common Sciatica Symptoms

The degree, type, and symptoms of the sciatic pain can vary dramatically from patient to patient, depending on the particular location of the affected nerve causing sciatica.

Most Commonly Diagnosed Sciatica Symptoms:

  • Leg Pain – Often in the back of the leg, and often much worse when sitting than standing up.
  • Burning and Tingling – Burning and/or tingling sensations felt anywhere along the length of the leg.
  • Weakness or Numbness – Other commonly diagnosed sciatica symptoms include weakness or numbness in the leg and difficulty moving your foot or toes.
  • Chronic Pain on One Side – One of the more unique sciatica symptoms is that it tends to only affect one side or the other of a patient’s body. It may extend all the way from the lower back down to the foot or toes, but will stay on either the right or left side of an individual in the vast majority of cases.
  • Acute Pain When Rising – Patients may experience an acute, sharp pain when rising from a sitting position.
  • Most Relief When Lying Down – Most sciatica symptoms are aggravated by standing or sitting, and can be somewhat relieved for a time if the patient lies prone.

How Do Our Neurosurgeons Perform A Sciatica Diagnosis?

The first step in a sciatica diagnosis is a medical interview. Your spine specialist will inquire about any past medical conditions and your family history of spinal or neurological issues that may be contributing to or aggravating your problem.

Next, a physical examination will be performed. The doctor will test your range of motion during this examination, note the degree of pain, and check several other factors. In most cases, they will be able to determine the approximate location of the nerve impingement simply from the examination itself.

The neurosurgeon may order a medical imaging test to confirm the sciatica diagnosis and to investigate other possible issues and causes of sciatica. Most often, CT scans and MRIs are employed for this purpose, although electromyogram testing is used in some cases; medical imaging allows physicians to pinpoint precisely the nerves causing sciatica.

Treatments for Sciatica

Treatment plans often start with medications, including anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles and increase flexibility. Steroid injections may reduce inflammation and the associated pain around the sciatic nerve. When other treatments are ineffective, surgery may be the best treatment for your sciatica.

Surgical options for sciatica treatments depend on the underlying cause of the nerve irritation. These surgical treatments include both minimally invasive and open procedures:

Lumbar Laminectomy This surgical procedure reduces pressure on the nerve root by removing a portion of the lamina (part of the vertebral bone) and any bony growths to increase the spinal canal opening. This operation is often used for those with spinal stenosis. If the narrowed spinal canal puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, this decompression surgery may alleviate the sciatic symptoms.

Microdiscectomy During this procedure, the neurosurgeon employs specialized microscopes to removed damage or herniated discs. If these discs are impinging on the sciatic nerve, this may relieve the sciatica.

As leaders in neurosurgical practice in the New York region, our top-notch multi-disciplinary team of physicians can provide expert surgical treatment options for less common causes of sciatica, such as brain and spine cancers along with other tumors.

A brain and spine specialist experienced in the underlying causes of sciatica can be the best doctor to help you determine the optimum treatment plan for your chronic leg pain. Located in centers across Long Island, NSPC has neurosurgeons skilled in treating sciatica with state-of-the-art medical procedures.

Related NSPC Center

Long Island Brain and Spine Tumor Center

NSPC provides state-of-the-art treatment of benign and malignant brain and spine tumors, using minimally invasive procedures like Gamma Knife®, Novalis TX™, and CyberKnife® rather than major surgery whenever appropriate. Our physicians also perform experienced pediatric neurosurgery — they give personalized, individual attention combined with knowledge and experience to take on the most challenging of cases.


Yusef Imani, M.D.



Daniel Birk



Xavier P. J. Gaudin



Benjamin Cohen

M.D., F.A.A.N.S., F.A.C.S.


Zachariah George



Vladimir Dadashev



Sachin Shah



Stephen Onesti

M.D., F.A.C.S.


Robert Holtzman



Ramin Rak

M.D., F.A.A.N.S.


Artem Vaynman

M.D., F.A.A.N.S. F.A.C.S.


William Sonstein

M.D., F.A.C.S.


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