The symptoms of sciatica are caused by the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is a syndrome that is quite often misunderstood. It is actually a description of symptoms rather than a diagnosis. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back, through the buttock down the leg and into the foot. It can become irritated anywhere along its path. The compression of this nerve can result in altered sensations below this level or restrict the movement of the sciatic nerve. As the entire nervous system is one continuous system when you more your limbs the nerves have to glide to accommadate this movement. As you lift your leg the sciatic nerve is required to glide to accommadate this movement if the nerve is compressed and is prevented from gliding, your movement is blocked stopping you from lifting your leg fully and you will have a shooting pain. The restriction of this movement through the sciatic nerve is known as sciatica.
Most commonly this is caused by a lumbar disc prolapse compressing on the spinal cord or the nerve root as it leaves the lumbar spine.
Many other syndromes cause these symptoms including
- Lumbar disc prolapse.
- Bony growths (osteophytes) causing nerve root impingement.
- Piriformis syndrome.
- Spinal stenosis.
- Sacroilliac joint dysfunction.
Symptoms of sciatica include:
- A catching or sharp pain making it difficult to walk or stand up.
- Pain worse with sitting.
- Pain worse while lifting your leg or stretching your hamstring.
- A narrow strip of pain running down the leg around the sciatic nerve on movement.
- A hot pain in the buttock.
- Pins and needles.
Treatments will vary depending on the structure being treated. Treatments may include:
- Massage to release the sciatic nerve.
- Mobilisations or manipulations of the lower back.
- Postural education.
- Strengthening of core or postural muscles.
- Neurodynamic mobilisations to restore the natural gliding motion to the sciatic nerve.