What Is sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition where compression of the sciatic nerve causes pain, numbness, or a loss of strength in the lower back and legs. Sciatica isn’t a disease in itself, but a symptom of other medical conditions including lumbar herniated discs, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis. Most patients with sciatica experience pain in the lower back and shooting down behind one of the thighs, possibly spreading down to the knee and ankle. Sciatica usually only affects one side of the body, but it’s possible for the numbness and pain to radiate down both legs. The sciatic nerve is the largest in the human body and subsequently, when it’s irritated, it causes quite a lot of pain. The pain is usually worse when a patient sits down, especially for extended periods of time, and can cause weakness and difficulty in moving.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by the irritation of the root or roots of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. The irritation can result from any number of conditions including:
- Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs which can cause a herniated disc)
- Infections in or near the lumbar spine
- Irritation caused by a nearby bone, tumor, or muscle
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
- Spondylolisthesis (one vertebra has slipped forward over another one)
What symptoms are associated with sciatica?
Because sciatica involves a nerve, it can cause localized symptoms in the area where the compression or impingement is occurring as well as cause symptoms that radiate to the areas served by the nerves – in this case, the hips, buttocks and legs. Symptoms can include:
- Pain which can be sharp or dull
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Numbness or weakness in the leg
It can be difficult to treat both the root cause and the symptoms of sciatica as the symptoms can mimic other spinal conditions. The best way to ensure the appropriate treatment is provided is by having a chiropractic evaluation.