In recent years, sciatica has become a "garbage-bag" term that people use to describe any type of buttock or leg pain without defining a specific cause of the pain. Historically, sciatica has referred to leg or buttock pain, numbness/tingling, and/or weakness down one or both legs. As nerves exit the spinal cord in the low back at their respective levels, they quickly converge to form several nerves that supply the legs. (See image below). The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It travels through the buttocks and down the back of the leg. There is a sciatic nerve in both legs, and the sciatic nerve extends down the back of the leg progressing on its path to the tips of the toes. Along it's way, the sciatic nerve branches into smaller nerves. These nerves supply the muscles of the legs and the sensation fibers to the skin. Because of the sciatic nerves, we are able to feel and move our legs.
Sciatica (also called lumbar radiculopathy) occurs when one or more of the nerves that makes up the sciatic nerve is irritated. This most commonly occurs at the area in the low back where the nerves exit the spine; and it is most commonly caused by a disc herniation, or bone spurs (osteophytes) that have developed as apart of degenerative disc disease (DDD/osteoarthitis of the spine).
Sciatica may include one or several types of symptoms depending on where and how badly the nerve is being pinched in the spine. And, because the sciatic nerve supplies the muscles and sensory fibers from the low back down the legs, symptoms of pain, cramping, numbness/tingling/shocking, and weakness may occur from the low back, buttocks, and/or down the length of the nerve's path in the leg. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Typically, the farther down the leg the symptoms are felt, the more serious the case of sciatica; and, if conservative treatment isn't sought promptly, symptoms may worsen, and they can become very debilitating requiring surgery.
At ELEVATE, our therapist have extensive experience treating patients with sciatica. With the appropriate treatment program, most people suffering from sciatica see symptom resolution quickly and are able to return to their normal, active lifestyle. If you have any questions about how we can assist you, call our office today.