What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is pain, frequently felt in the buttock but spreading down the leg, due to a spinal nerve being compressed. Sciatica is very common affecting most adults at some time in their life. In most patients it is short lived and can be managed with simple painkillers but in some patients the pain is more severe and can be debilitating. In the more severe cases the spinal nerves may stop working normally and this can cause numbness in the leg and in some cases weakness of the affected muscles. In a small number of cases the important nerves to the bladder and genitalia may be compressed and this can cause difficulty passing water or numbness over the genitalia. This is considered an emergency condition as without surgery the urinary problems can become permanent. If you are suffering from back or leg pain and develop difficulty passing water or numbness over your genitalia or buttocks you should seek immediate medical attention the same day.The usual investigation to diagnose disc disorders is an MRI scan of the spine. Disc herniations do not show up on x-rays although in some patients your specialist may recommend a CT scan. In many cases a small fragment of disc will be seen compressing a nerve which will explain the symptoms. Depending on the severity of the symptoms the specialist may recommend simple painkillers or physiotherapy. In more severe cases either a nerve injection or a small operative procedure may be recommended. The most common operation performed is a lumbar microdiscectomy.