The sciatic nerve is the longest
nerve in our body. It runs from the spinal cord to the buttock and hip area
and down the back of each leg.
Sciatica is low back pain combined with a pain through the buttock and down one leg, along the course of the sciatic nerve. The pain usually goes past the knee and may go farther - upto the foot. Sometimes, weakness in the leg muscles occurs with sciatica. In addition to pain, which is sometimes severe, there may be numbness, muscular weakness, pins and needles or tingling and difficulty in moving or controlling the leg. Typically, the symptoms are only felt on one side of the body.
Sciatica is caused by inflammation or compression of the sciatic nerve or nerve roots in the lower spine. It may also be caused by damage to nerve roots. Sciatica is not a disease in itself and its causes are various.
Pressure on the sciatic nerve can result from poor posture, muscle strain, pregnancy, wearing high heels, or being overweight. A herniated disc in the lumbar spine is the most common cause of sciatica.
Another common cause of sciatica is lumbar spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, which puts pressure on the roots making up the sciatic nerve.
Although isthmic spondylolisthesis is relatively common in adults, it only occasionally causes sciatica. This occurs when a vertebra develops a stress fracture and slips, slightly impinging on the sciatic nerve as it exits the spine. Piriformis syndrome causes sciatica when the sciatic muscle is irritated as it runs under the piriformis muscle in the buttocks. Finally, sacroiliac joint dysfunction can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica.
Pain that radiates from lower (lumbar) spine to buttock and down the back of leg is the hallmark of sciatica. Patient may feel the discomfort almost anywhere along the nerve pathway, but it's especially likely to follow a path from low back to buttock and the back of thigh and calf.
The pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating discomfort. Sometimes it may feel like a jolt or electric shock. It may be worse during coughing and sneezing, and prolonged sitting also can aggravate symptoms. Usually only one lower extremity is affected.
Sciatica symptoms include-
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