Sciatica Made Simple
Sciatic pain is commonly felt alongside lower back pain, it is described as pain in the leg (lower extremity). It occurs when there is irritation of the sciatic nerve, this is typically felt from the lower back down to the back of the thigh to the knee and sometimes further down into the ankle or foot.
Largest Nerve In The Body
The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest spinal nerve in the body, it extends from the lower back, running downward into the buttock or gluteal region, and into the back of the thigh and lower the leg (calf). Smaller individual nerves branch off from the sciatic nerve to reach muscles and skin and so can cause a variety of symptoms.
Commonly pain is only one side of the buttock or leg rarely felt in both sides, this is due to branching off into two sciatic nerves supplying each leg. If both legs have symptoms this may suggest either spinal nerve roots or cord is being compressed. The pain can vary from infrequent and irritation to constant and incapacitating.
Areas Of Discomfort
- Low back (lumbar spine)
- Hip and buttock (gluteal area)
- back of the leg
- Feet and toes
- Pain: Stabling, Shooting, Burning or Dull Ache
- Pins and needles (Tingling feeling)
- Loss of sensation (Numb)
- Muscles Weakness
Causes of Sciatica
Commonly the sciatic nerve is irritated in a result of a disc herniation that directly puts pressure on the nerve. Other causes such as local inflammation, trauma, and degeneration to the low back (lumbar spine) or disc. Pressure on the sciatic nerve from a muscle called piriformis (because of its pyramidal shape) can occur causing “Piriformis Syndrome”, producing symptoms similar to true sciatica.
Trapped nerves (radiculopathy) in the low back can produce diverse symptoms depending on which nerve is being trapped. The common ones are:
L4 Nerve Root (L3-L4): symptoms stemming from this level in the lower spine may include pain and/or numbness to the inside lower leg and foot; weakness to the foot
L5 Nerve Root (L4-L5): stemming from this level you may experience pain and/or numbness at the top of the foot, around big and second toe. Weakness may also be experienced potentially in the ankle.
S1 Nerve Root (L5-S1): pain and/or numbness to the outside the foot; weakness results in difficulty raising the heel off the ground or an inability to walk on tip-toes.
How to relief the pain?
- A range of exercises/stretches can be used to relief the sciatic pain along with relief of lower back pain. Please watch our video on exercises to help relieve your lower back pain!
- Pain may increase by prolonged sitting, standing up, twisting, lifting or straining; therefore reduce these movements to help relieve the pressure or irritation on the sciatic nerve.
- Lying flat with a pillow to support your head and under your knees will help relieve the pressure on your back, using a cold compress on the affected side will help with any local inflammation that has occurred.
If your symptoms don't improve it's best to seek the professional advice, as the are also other medical conditions which may need to be looked at.
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