Sciatica is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body, becomes compressed or irritated. This can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in your lower back, hips, legs, and feet. When sciatica affects your feet, it can significantly impact your ability to walk and perform everyday activities. In this article, we’ll discuss how sciatica affects your feet and how it may impact treatment options.
The sciatic nerve is responsible for controlling the movement and sensation in your legs and feet. It can cause a range of symptoms that affect your feet when it becomes compressed or irritated. These symptoms may include the following:
Sciatica can have a significant impact on your health. The pain associated with sciatica can range from mild to severe, making it difficult to do simple things such as sitting, standing, or walking. In some cases, the pain can be so severe that it can interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, or enjoy daily life. In addition to pain, sciatica can cause numbness, tingling, and weakness in the affected area, further limiting a person’s mobility and range of motion.
If left untreated, sciatica can lead to long-term complications such as muscle atrophy, loss of reflexes, drop foot – which can cause more damage to the foot muscles and the ability to walk without tripping or even falling – and it can turn into permanent nerve damage. It’s important to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing sciatica, as early treatment can help prevent further damage and improve your quality of life.
If you’re experiencing sciatica symptoms, you need to seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional. Drs. Schoene and Bever want you to be aware of the steps that may be taken to diagnose sciatica. We can evaluate if the nerve pain is coming from the lower back, or from problems arising from the lower leg or even inside the ankle area, as patients can have similar symptoms from a condition called Tarsal Tunnel syndrome which is caused by a impingement on the nerve running down inside the ankle which causes numbness, burning or tingling into the foot.
Our healthcare professionals will perform a physical examination to evaluate your range of motion, muscle strength, and reflexes. We may also perform specific tests to assess for sciatica, such as the straight leg raise test, which involves lifting the leg while lying on your back to see if it causes pain.
Imaging tests may be ordered to help diagnose sciatica. These may include X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans. These tests can help us identify any underlying conditions that may be causing the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Electromyography (EMG) may be performed to assess the function of the sciatic nerve. This test measures the electrical activity of the muscles in the affected areas to determine if there’s nerve damage.
The treatment options for sciatica will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms. When sciatica affects your feet, it may impact treatment options in several ways.
The first line of treatment for sciatica is often rest. This involves avoiding activities that aggravate the symptoms and allowing your body to heal. Bed rest may be recommended in severe cases, but it’s important to balance rest with gentle exercises and stretches to maintain flexibility and prevent muscle atrophy.
Physical therapy is a common treatment option for sciatica, as it can help to reduce pain, improve mobility, and prevent future episodes. However, when sciatica affects your feet, you may require specialized physical therapy that focuses on foot and ankle exercises. This may include stretches, strengthening exercises, and balance training.
Custom orthotics are devices designed to support and align your feet and ankles. Podiatrists often prescribe them to help manage a range of foot and ankle conditions. When it comes to sciatica, custom orthotics can help to improve foot and ankle alignment, and help align the lower extremity that allows the lower back to align properly too this will help in reducing pressure on your sciatic nerve and helping to alleviate pain and improve mobility.
Pain medication may be recommended to help manage the symptoms of sciatica. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. In some cases, stronger prescription pain medication may be necessary, but these should be used with caution and under the guidance of your healthcare professional.
Epidural steroid injections are a minimally invasive procedure that involves injecting a steroid medication directly into the area around the affected nerve, which helps reduce inflammation and relieve pain. However, when sciatica affects your feet, you may require injections that target the nerves in your foot and ankle. This procedure is typically done at a pain clinic with a trained anesthesiologist who we can refer you to if the simple conservative treatments don’t relieve the pain.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. When the nerve pain that travels into the foot and ankle is caused by issues within the foot and ankle, Dr. Bever and Dr. Schoene can discuss specific surgical procedures; however, if the issue is coming from the lower back discs and vertebrae, then a neurosurgeon may need to do a special surgery to alleviate the problem.( take out rest of sentence)
The treatment options for sciatica may be impacted by foot involvement, requiring specialized approaches and care from your healthcare provider. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, it’s possible to manage the symptoms of sciatica and improve your quality of life.
If you think you’re experiencing sciatica, seeking medical attention to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment is crucial. Let our caring and professional team at Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Assoc. help get you back on your feet again.