When Should I Go to the ER for Sciatica Pain?


Sciatica pain can be tormenting. This can occur when you suffer from a pinched sciatic nerve. People living with this condition often deal with back pain or leg pain, and sometimes even weakness, tingling, and numbness complete the set of uncomfortable symptoms. It frequently starts as achiness in the lower back, then the pain spreads towards the buttocks, and down through the back of the leg. The streak of pain usually affects only one leg. Unfortunately, for some people who suffer from sciatica, the pain can become totally unbearable and sometimes lead to a visit to emergency care just to ease the pain. But what will the hospital do for sciatica pain? Is this something that you will do now every time sciatica stikes?

Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis but rather a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Here are some possible causes or conditions that stem sciatica from happening:

  • Neck or head injury
  • Lumbar disc treat or herniation
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bone spurs
  • Bad posture
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Spinal tumors 
  • Tumors growing on the nerve roots of the spinal cord

The Nerve Roots Connected to the Sciatic Nerve

Our sciatic nerve on its own is the body’s single longest and largest nerve. It is along the lower spine, running through the buttocks and down the thigh to the foot. The sciatic nerve connects the spinal cord with your leg and foot. It has two nerve roots that exit your lumbar spine and three others that exit your sacral segment. 

Five nerves combine to form the sciatic nerve. Then they branch off down the two legs. There are specific symptoms of sciatica that usually manifest, and it is dependent on which spinal nerve becomes pinched or compressed. Here are some of those nerves:

  • L4 Nerve Root 

It commonly affects the thigh. As a result, straightening the leg becomes a challenge. In addition, it can knock down the knee-jerk reflexes.

  • L5 Nerve Root

Usually, the symptoms from this nerve can extend to the big toe and ankle–commonly referred to as foot drop. A person may feel numbness or pain on the top of the foot and in the skin between the second toe and the big toe.

  • S1 Nerve Root 

It affects the outer part of the foot and then spreads into the little toe or toes. You may experience weakness when you try to lift your heel off the ground or stand on your tiptoes. Restriction of the reflex that involves the ankle-jerk response is also very likely.

In some cases, more than one nerve root becomes compressed or pinched. As a result, it causes a combination of the symptoms mentioned above.

List of Sciatica Signs and Symptoms 

Sciatica is frequently associated with one or more of the following:

  • A sharp pain that makes walking or standing up close to impossible
  • Pain that radiates down one leg and also into the foot and toes
  • Leg pain experienced as tingling, searing, or burning
  • Chronic pain frequently affecting only one side of the buttocks or leg
  • Pain that gets more intense due to prolonged sitting but may become better as soon as you lie down or start walking.
  • Weakness or numbness, or difficulty when trying to move the foot, leg, or toes
  • Irregular and irritating pain, or can also be consistent and incapacitating
  • Symptoms that depend on the location of the pinched or irritated nerve

It is rare for sciatica to cause any damage to the tissue or sciatic nerve permanently. However, these symptoms may trigger whenever you cough, sneeze, or change positions. Some of them will trigger if you have a particular condition. For example, if a person has spinal stenosis, walking long distances or bending the body backward can cause excruciating back pain and other symptoms. If you have a lumbar herniated disc, then leaning forward will cause lower back pain.

Common Sciatica Remedies

Here are two ways you can take care of your discomfort and anxiety due to sciatica without extreme measures such as surgery. Also, be aware that nerve compression will remain until you get to solve the root cause of it. Moreover, the pain may come back even worse.

  • Pain Medications

Temporary relief can be yours if you take over-the-counter or prescription medications. Also, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, like Ibuprofen, can help reduce nerve inflammation. Another option would be to use more potent drugs such as narcotics or muscle relaxers. However, these can only provide short-term relief.

  • Heat and Ice 

Either heat or ice can relieve sciatica pain. Try applying heat for 20 minutes on the affected area and then use a cold pack for another 20 minutes in the same area. One method may be more effective than the other. It is best to try them only one at a time. Also, to prevent frostbite, be sure to wrap the ice in a towel before putting it to your skin.

When Is Sciatica An Emergency Situation? 

While sciatica may involve alarming and excruciating pain, it is commonly not serious. But if you experience any of the symptoms below, please seek professional help immediately. Here are some rare cases where your sciatica may be more severe than you think: 

  • When your symptoms occur in both legs, it is known as bilateral sciatica. It can cause dysfunctions with your bladder and bowel movement. Also, it is possible to feel an altered sensation or malfunction in your genital area, which may indicate cauda equina syndrome. It is another rare condition. Both these can sometimes cause paralysis. 
  • When your sciatica happens after experiencing a trauma or accident, seek help. Also, if you have sciatica accompanied by loss of appetite, fever, or other abnormal symptoms.
  • When your sciatic pain keeps on getting worse and does not show any improvement, consult with a doctor. There is a possibility of nerve damage, especially when you feel weakness in your leg.

What will the Hospital do for Sciatica Pain? 

When your sciatica pain is more than what you can handle, it's not uncommon to consider an emergency room visit. We listed the rare cases when you're sciatica be more severe above. But how does a hospital visit help with your pain?  

In some cases, the ER healthcare professional will assess the severity of the pain, conduct diagnostic tests if necessary or revisit your history if this is not the first time for your visit, and provide appropriate pain management interventions to alleviate discomfort and prevent further complications.

Your visit to the hospital for sciatica pain may lead to you receiving prescription pain medications, which may include steroid injections. However, to achieve long-term sustainable improvement, it is essential to pursue proactive methods aimed at addressing the underlying cause of sciatic pain.

Read This Blog: The Top 7 Causes of Upper Middle Back Pain

Dealing With Sciatica Right at Its Root

There is a natural way of taking care of your sciatica. By natural, we mean, there are absolutely no side-effects involved. Upper cervical chiropractic care is one solution. It is non-invasive, safe, gentle, and useful. 

Correcting the upper cervical spine or neck’s bones to achieve relief for lower back pain may seem unusual. Still, many clinical studies are considering upper cervical chiropractic a success. The spinal cord runs within the vertebrae of the entire spine, all the way up to the brainstem. The brainstem is in the upper cervical spine or the neck. If there is a misalignment in this area, it can cause compensations to happen down the spine, causing sciatica.

The method upper cervical chiropractors use is precise and very gentle. Patients undergo a systematic examination to identify the accurate location and degree of any subluxation (misalignment or slight dislocation). Most importantly, an upper cervical adjustment often provides patients with quick results and a significant improvement in their sciatica urgency. Also, in some cases, sciatica completely goes away for good

Find an upper cervical chiropractor to help you with your urgent care for sciatica and back pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

 When Is Sciatica An Emergency?

 Severe sciatica with loss of bladder or bowel control may be an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention to get emergency sciatica pain relief.

 When To Go To The Hospital For Sciatica?

Go to the hospital for a sciatica emergency if you experience severe pain, numbness, or weakness, especially if accompanied by loss of bladder or bowel control.

Should I Go To The ER For Sciatica Pain?

If sciatica pain is severe or accompanied by neurological symptoms, consider going to the ER for immediate evaluation and emergency sciatica treatment.

Can The ER Help With Sciatica?

The ER can provide immediate relief and diagnostic evaluation for severe sciatica. Follow-up care with a healthcare provider is often recommended. 

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.