The sciatic nerve is the largest in the nervous system. Its circumference is about the size of your pinky finger, and it’s responsible for connecting the spinal cord to the leg and foot muscles. Any pressure on the sciatic nerve will cause a radiating pain, called sciatica, that can be felt throughout these regions of the lower body. Sciatica itself is a symptom, not a diagnosis, and there are many conditions that can cause sciatic-like pain. Below are some of the most common conditions related to sciatic pain.
What Causes Sciatic Pain?
Lumbar Herniated Disc
The spine consists of individual bones called vertebra that stack vertically, creating a frame for the body to stand upright. Between these stacks of vertebrae are rubbery cushions called “discs,” which act as cartilaginous joints that hold the spine together and provide mobility. If there is a tear in one of these discs, the resulting rupture will irritate nearby nerves, causing a disc herniation. A herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine will likely irritate the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica to develop.
The inflammation from a muscle strain in the lower back or gluteus muscles can put pressure on the sciatic nerve roots, causing tingling and numbness.
The piriformis muscle is a small muscle behind the gluteus maximus. Located near the sciatic nerve, the piriformis can sometimes spasm and compress the sciatic nerve. Although Piriformis Syndrome isn’t as common as a herniated disc, it can cause sciatic pain and is often overlooked in some clinical settings because its symptoms can overlap with other medical conditions.
Pregnancy pain often develops pseudo-sciatic symptoms, particularly with pain in the lower back and upper thighs. This pain typically worsens with prolonged sitting or standing. Unfortunately, sciatic pain from pregnancy does not resolve itself quickly, and most treatment options for would only provide temporary or partial relief from the pain.
What are the Symptoms?
Because sciatica affects the sciatic nerve, most symptoms are going to be in the low back, hip, and on the outside of the leg. Below are a few symptoms associated with sciatica.
- Sharp low back pain
- Pain that originates in the low back or hip, but then radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve and travels down the back of the leg
- Constant or shooting pain in one side of the buttock or leg
- Sciatica usually only occurs on one side of the body and rarely affects both sides simultaneously
- Weakness or numbness when moving the leg, which may cause difficulty walking
Prevent and Relieve Sciatic Pain
Most cases of sciatic pain are mild and can resolve themselves with time and rest. However, not everyone can take the time out of their busy lives to wait for the pain to go away. Here are a few more active measures you can take to relieve your sciatic pain and prevent it from resurfacing.
Sit Less, Move More
We all know that prolonged sitting is unhealthy, but did you know that sitting for too long can also be a risk factor for sciatica? There are various ways you can start building active habits to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
If you do need to sit, use good posture and take breaks often throughout the day. You can also check out our other article for more tips on how to fit physical activity into a busy schedule. Following these tips can ease the pressure on your lower back and will help you avoid sciatic pain.
Stretches and Foam Roller Exercises for Sciatic Pain Relief
Are you currently experiencing sciatic pain and need some immediate relief? Below are some exercises you can add to your routine to help strengthen your back and ease the pain.
Still Struggling with Sciatic Pain?
Since sciatica is just a secondary symptom of other medical conditions. If the source of your sciatic pain is not diagnosed or treated properly, the pain may worsen or become chronic. At Airrosti, we specialize in quickly diagnosing and treating the source of your sciatic pain, without needles or surgery, and most of our patient cases can be resolved in 3 visits, based on patient-reported outcomes. Schedule an appointment with us today and kick your sciatic pain to the curb.
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