Definition of Sciatica
Sciatica is the name for irritation of the sciatic nerve which runs down the back of the leg. It is a commonly
Is Sciatica The Cause Of Your Leg Pain?
misdiagnosed condition, in that sometimes people believe they have sciatica only to discover that it may be some other condition that can mimic it or produce leg pain. True sciatica comes from some irritation of the sciatic nerve root or branch and can have a number of different causes itself.
Misdiagnoses of Sciatica and other causes of Leg Pain
Returning to the subject of misdiagnoses, you can have pain which refers into the leg (in the same way as heart pain can refer into the arm) or you can have irritation of a different nerve in the leg, such as the femoral nerve, which runs down the front of the leg. Neither of these will be true sciatica and the latter is usually referred to as Femoral neuralgia. Bearings in mind, that you can get pain down the back of the leg from a pulled hamstring as well.
The sciatic nerve itself is quite thick, about the thickness of your thumb, and pressure on it can lead to pain, numbness, tingling and pins and needles etc. The pain can run from just into the buttock to all the way down the back of the leg to the foot.
Causes of Sciatica and Leg Pain
The Path of the Sciatic Nerve
Only true sciatica then is an irritation of the root or main trunk of the sciatic nerve. The nerve runs from the lower lumbar spine down the back of the leg all the way to the foot. Symptoms can come from pressure on the nerve root which can arise from bony malposition, inflammation and swelling or disc pressure (see below). There are a number of ways that the nerve can become irritated or compressed. Let’s look at some of the most common.
A) Disc problems. Discs do not slip. The disc is like a cushion acting as a shock absorber between the vertebrae. Just like a cushion, it can become lumpy or “misshapen”. When that happens it can press on the nerve root. If there is sufficient wear in the disc, then you can get a rupture of the disc (a bit like a tear in the covering of the cushion and the stuffing coming out). This is a more serious condition and is generally associated with much more severe pain in the leg.
B) Inflammation in the joints. If there is a significant strain of the facet joints in the lower lumbar spine, then there can be sufficient pressure on the nerve to, once again, trigger sciatic pain. There are no empty spaces in the body, so swelling will exert pressure on the structures around it.
C) Piriformis spasm. There is a muscle in the buttock called the Piriformis and it is situated very close to the sciatic nerve trunk (ie further down than the root) and in some cases, if this muscle goes into spasm, it can press on the nerve. In addition, in a small percentage of people, the nerve actually runs through the muscle, meaning a Piriformis spasm will “trap” the nerve producing pain.
There are different tests that can be carried out to assess if there is irritation of the sciatic nerve, what’s causing it and, therefore, help determine the best course of action. Please consult your local Chiropractor Near Me for a thorough examination, diagnosis and report of findings and find out what the cause of your ongoing leg pain is.