What is Sciatica?

If you have a burning pain in your butt that spreads down your leg then you may have sciatica. Sciatica isn’t the disease, it’s the symptom, consisting of leg pain that usually feels like a bad cramp on a good day, or it may be totally excruciating and shooting that makes standing or sitting really uncomfortable.

When my patients describe their sciatica pain and I ask them, “when did this pain come on?” the answers I get often vary from sudden and instant, to a gradual build up over time. If you have sciatica, you may also be feeling weakness, numbness or pins and needles feelings in parts of your legs, feet and/or toes. You may also notice that when you sit, cough or sneeze your sciatica symptoms may become worse. These are all signs of an irritated nerve.

What causes Sciatica?

Sciatica, is a set of symptoms that relate to your sciatic nerve being irritated in some way and at some point in its course. So, what irritates the sciatic nerve? A number of conditions:

  • Herniated or “slipped” disc: puts direct pressure on a nerve. Much like the jam being squeezed out of a jam dough-nut the jam (disc) sits on the nerve and irritates it. This jam cuts off the electrical nerve signals to the leg and that’s why you get the symptoms of nerve compression i.e. Pins and needles and numbness.
  • Piriformis Syndrome: The piriformis is a muscle deep in your but-cheek and when it becomes tight it may go into spasm and irritate the nerve that lies right next to it- you guessed it- your sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal Stenosis: is basically narrowing of the spinal canal, and much like putting a kink in a garden hose, a kink here will decrease the room for the water (nerves) to pass through.
  • Spondylolisthesis: Now that is a mouthful! Your spine is made up of blocks of vertebrae- this condition is where one vertebrae or block slips forwards. This slippage causes a narrowing in the dimensions of the canal or the kink in the garden hose scenario again.

Have a read of my other post about treatment for sciatica.

Sciatica can be treated effectively. You don’t have to live with pain.

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