Sciatica

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a set of symptoms including pain that may or may not be caused by general compression of one or more of the five spinal nerve roots that give rise to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is made up of a combination of L4 and L5 (lumbar nerve roots) and S1, S2, and S3 (sacral nerve roots). Sciatica can also be due to compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve itself.

The classic signs of sciatica include pain radiating from the gluteal region into one or both legs. The pain runs down the posterior of the leg going as far as the big toe. On occasion numbness is felt, but mostly the shooting pain in the gluteal region and down the back of the leg is observed.

It is important to correctly diagnose the true origin of sciatica. By correctly diagnosing the true nature of the symptoms, the sciatica can be effectively treated. Pseudosciatica is a term used to describe non-disc related sciatica; it can also be referred to as damaged lumbar facet joints. Sciatic symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions, such as; spinal disc herniation, spinal stenosis, Piriformis Syndrome, pregnancy, and also poor habits.

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal is occluded by such things as bone spurs, spondylolisthesis, inflammation of meninges, tumor growth, or even herniated discs, depending on where they occur.
Piriformis Syndrome is an occurrence in which the sciatic nerve becomes impinged by the piriformis muscle (located in the gluteal region). This small muscle runs perpendicular to the sciatic nerve and can trap the sciatic nerve in a spasm or a strained state.
During pregnancy the weight of the baby can sometimes put pressure directly on the sciatic nerve causing the classic sciatic symptoms of pain shooting down the posterior leg, sometimes all the way to the big toe.
Bad habits such as sitting on a wallet, wearing heavy tool belts, prolonged sitting, and even prolonged standing can all create imbalances in the hips and cause sciatic pain.

Illustrations by adam.com