Sciatica is a broad term that is used to describe inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a peripheral nerve that runs down the back of each leg. When irritated, it can cause pain in the back, leg, hip, pelvis, neck and buttock.
Usually irritation of the sciatic nerve involves compression injuries either by soft tissue and surrounding muscles or the inflammation may arise from a herniated disk pressing on the associated upstream nerve roots. Here, we will dive deeper to explain what sciatica is, common causes of pain in sciatic nerve, common symptoms as well as treatment options available for treating this painful and debilitating condition.
What Is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is a relatively large and anatomically prominent nerve that starts in the lower back and runs down the back of each leg to form multiple sub branches that innervates various parts of the our lower extremity.
The term sciatica refers to inflammation of the sciatic nerve. This diagnosis is non descriptive and does not capture the site of compression or the cause of the compression, hence a proper assessment is necessary to identify causes and design an appropriate treatment plan.
If you experience the symptoms of sciatica, it is imperative to have it assessed and diagnosed professionally by a chiropractor or a physiotherapist to determine the cause of the sciatica since the nerve can be pinched or irritated from multiple different factors and at various sites along the nerve tract.
Common Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain
The sciatic nerve can become inflamed through a few mechanisms such as compression injuries, overstretch injuries, falls or trauma and disc herniations or bone spurs. In more rare instances, tumors or diseases such as diabetes can also involve the sciatic nerve.
Here is a list of common causes of pain in the sciatic nerve:
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Sciatica can present differently in each case and also with varying intensities, depending on the site of the compression, the degree of the compression and also the chronicity of the issue.
We have compiled a list of some common symptoms of sciatica:
Constant Dull Ache in the Buttock or the Thigh Region
Some people describe their pain as a constant ache in the buttock or hamstrings. This pain can not be stretched away and sometimes worsens with too much stretching as nerves generally do not like to be stretched when irritated.
Electric Shock Pain in the Leg
It is possible for sciatic nerve inflammation to cause feelings of sharp pain often described as “electrical shooting pain” down the leg. These symptoms usually come and go and can be positional dependent with certain positions causing a shooting pain down the back or side of the leg and other positions that can be relieving.
Positional dependency is a sign that your sciatica is most likely being pinched and is not related to a systemic disease such as diabetes.
Throbbing or Pulsating Pain in the Buttock or the Legs
The pain quality from sciatica is sometimes described as a throbbing or pulsating pain. This sensation can be felt at the buttock where the nerve is being compressed or the irritation can travel down to the back of the legs and may even present as calf cramps or hamstring cramps.
Numbness or Tingling in the Thigh, Leg, Shin or Foot Including Toes
When nerves are pinched or irritated, they become hypoxic, meaning they are not receiving enough oxygen to send signals up and down the neural pathways. Compression of nerves can present as a feeling of tingling, buzzing or numbness in the leg, foot or toes. If you are noticing these symptoms, it is likely that your sciatic nerve is pinched.
Feeling of Tightness in Your Leg That You Can’t Stretch Out
Nerves do not like to be stretched. In fact, an irritated nerve may become more inflamed with too much stretching. If you have a feeling of tightness or pressure in your back, buttock or leg that you can’t seem to stretch away, you may have a pinched sciatic nerve.
Sciatica Available Treatments
Sciatica responds very well to conservative therapies such as chiropractic, massage therapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture. All these therapies work differently yet in conjunction to assist in fast recovery and to address the body from all different angles.
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Our Sciatica Treatment Program
At Fulcrum Therapy, our practitioners work together and collaboratively to treat our patients. It may seem very confusing when deciding which practitioner to see for which problem.
This is difficult because all disciplines and practitioners can assist in their own way in helping the issue. What works incredibly well for our patients at Fulcrum is our multidisciplinary approach, practitioner communication and making appropriate recommendations when we believe combining another therapy may speed up the healing process for our patients.