Sciatica is the medical name given to pain that is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve found within the human body. It originates from the lumbar section of the spine (L3) and runs through the buttocks, and all the way down both legs, where it finally finishes at the feet.
At each level of the lower spine a nerve root exits from the inside of the spine and then comes together to make up the sciatic nerve. Portions of the sciatic nerve then branch out in each leg to innervate certain parts of the leg such as the buttock, thigh, calf, feet and toes.
When a muscle or a disc compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve, it can cause pain that radiates out from the lower back and travels down the leg and the calf, towards the foot. Sciatic pain can range from being fairly mild to being extremely painful and unbearable.
Sciatica is often characterized by one
or more of the following symptoms:
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg
- Burning or shooting pains down the leg
- Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up and walking
Sciatic pain can vary from being infrequent and irritating to constant pain and incapacitating. Specific sciatica symptoms also vary widely in type, location and severity, depending upon the condition causing the sciatica. While symptoms can be very painful, it is extremely rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage will result.
Causes of sciatica include:
- Jobs that require constant sitting e.g. desk/driving jobs as muscles continually contract and put pressure on the sciatic nerve
- Wearing high heels which change the angle of the pelvis and spine
- Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft for a relatively long period of time as this will also change the alignment of the spine
Additional common causes of sciatica include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
- Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae)
- Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one)
- Pregnancy (because the weight of the baby causes an inward curve of the lumbar section of the spine (Lordosis), putting pressure of the sciatic nerve
Treatment of sciatica:
Generally sciatica can be treated very effectively with a combination of therapies such as, acupuncture combined with massage, cupping and TuiNa. These therapies are designed to relax tight muscles to take pressure off of the sciatic nerve, realign the muscular and skeletal systems to correct physical imbalances and remove stagnation build up in the muscles.