Sciatica describes persistent pain felt along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, down through the buttock, and into the lower leg.
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body, running from the lower back through the buttocks and down the back of each leg. It controls the muscles of the lower leg and provides sensation to the thighs, legs, and the soles of the feet.
Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) compresses part of the nerve. This causes inflammation, pain and often some numbness in the affected leg.
Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Specific sciatica symptoms can be different in location and severity, depending upon the condition causing the sciatica.
Sciatica may feel like a bad leg cramp, with pain that is sharp (“knife-like”), or electrical. The cramp can last for weeks before it goes away. You may have pain, especially when you move, sneeze, or cough. You may also have weakness, “pins and needles” numbness, or a burning or tingling sensation down your leg.
While symptoms can be painful and potentially debilitating, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) will result.
Treatments for sciatica depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the pain. And in next week’s blog entry, we’ll talk more about the different treatment options for sciatica, including our favorite: chiropractic!