Lower back and leg pain can indicate conditions of the lumbar spine. The sciatic nerve — the largest single nerve in the body — travels from the lower spine, through the pelvis and down each leg, and is typically the underlying source of experienced pain.
"Leg pain or sciatica occurs in many patients due to common weight-bearing activities that place additional pressure on the lumbar spine, aggravating the sciatic nerve," said Hamid Mir, MD, board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon at
St. Joseph Hospital.
Sciatica is not a spinal condition, but rather a symptom of a lumbar spinal condition such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease. Sciatica is often described as:
- Pain isolated to one side of the buttock or leg.
- A burning or tingling sensation in the leg.
- Weakness or numbness in the leg or foot.
- Sharp pain that occurs when standing, walking or sitting.
Sciatica can present different symptoms depending on which part of the sciatic nerve is affected. Dr. Mir recommends patients see an orthopedic spine surgeon if symptoms last more than six weeks. "Pain consistent with symptoms of sciatica could potentially involve a more serious spinal condition requiring surgery," Dr. Mir said.
The good news is many lumbar spinal conditions can be treated with non-operative measures. When surgery is indicated, minimally invasive surgical procedures for decompression of the nerve are very successful in alleviating the pain. For instance, if a herniated disc in the lumbar spine is applying pressure on the sciatic nerve, a portion of the bone or disc material over the nerve root can be removed through an extremely small incision.
Dr. Mir explained the benefits of minimally-invasive spine surgery utilizing advanced microscopic techniques to treat lumbar spinal conditions. "Some patients may qualify to undergo lumbar micro decompression to provide symptomatic relief of leg pain or sciatica pain. This advanced surgical approach can be performed as an outpatient procedure with a quick recovery time," Dr. Mir said.
Other benefits of minimally-invasive spine surgery include:
- Less scar tissue and damage to surrounding muscle.
- Less pain resulting in reduced need for pain medication.
- Decreased blood loss.
- Shorter hospital stays.
- Decreased risk of postoperative infections.
Dr. Mir advises patients to discuss different treatment options for lumbar spinal conditions with their doctor to determine which treatment is right for them.
To learn more, about Dr. Mir, click here, for more information about St. Joseph Hospital, please visit
www.sjo.org. Register for the "Minimally-Invasive Spine Surgery" event with Dr. Mir by calling (877) 459-DOCS (3627).