What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is defined as the pain experienced in the buttocks, legs and feet as caused by the sciatic nerve. This happens when – the sciatic nerve gets pressed against or irritated. If you are experiencing any set of symptoms that includes pain in the lower back down to the legs and feet, it may be sciatica.

What is the Sciatic Nerve?

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and begins at the lower spine and goes along the buttocks and down behind your thigh’s and into your feet. The sciatic nerve is responsible for sending signals from the spine to all of the lower body.

The sciatic nerve has many functions mostly due to it’s length and where it’s located. This is why sciatica causes pain in the lower body sometimes leading to muscle contractions, coughing, and even sneezing!

Causes for Sciatica?

There are many reasons one might have a compressed or irritated sciatic nerve. The most common are:

    • Slipped disc. If the outer casing of a disc in your spine becomes herniated, the interior of the disc will bulge. This can lead to it pressing against the sciatic nerve, and can result in discomfort and pain.
    • Spinal injury. If you have injured your spine or caused damage to the muscle surrounding your spine the inflammation can compress the sciatic nerve.
    • Spinal stenosis. This can be caused by the narrowing of the passage holding the spinal cord – caused by enlarged ligaments.This can press on the sciatic nerve causing lower back pain.
    • Spondylolisthesis. This is where your vertebrae moves much more than it should. It’s caused by moving the spine in unnatural ways or typically from aging.
  • Spinal infection. Though less common it can be the reason for experiencing sciatica

Usually the numbness, tingling, and amount of pain depends on the severity of the irritation and compression of the sciatic nerve. The spot where the sciatic nerve is being pressed against can affect where the pain comes from.

How is Sciatica Treated?

This is typically determined on a case by case basis to determine how to best reduce compression around the sciatic nerve. There are usually specific treatments for those who suffer from sciatica.

Common treatments for combating sciatica include pain-killing medications and rest. This may work in the beginning but is usually a short-term fix. These types of medications only target your sciatica symptoms and do nothing to actually address the underlying issues.

Physiotherapy exercises and stretches are a popular form of treatment. These stretches and exercises do treat the actual sciatic nerve issues, unlike pain killers – but it’s important that the correct exercises are done for the reasons causing your sciatica. If the wrong kind of exercises are done then you may actually make your sciatic pain worse!

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