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Sciatic Nerve Pain - What are the Symptoms and Causes?

Sciatica or sciatic nerve pain is a term often used to describe all sorts of back pain. In fact, less than 5% of people who suffer from lower back pain will have sciatica.


A lot of people don't understand what sciatica means. You can't really call it an ailment or disease, not even a diagnosis could tell you the cause of the pain. It's more like a set of symptoms.

At each vertebra the spinal cord braches out to form a nerve root, these nerve roots leave the spine via a gap between each vertebra and then bundle together to form much larger nerves.


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 Sciatica refers to pain that begins in the hip and buttocks and continues all the way down the leg. This condition is often accompanied by low back pain, which can be more or less severe than the leg pain. The term "sciatica" indicates that the sciatic nerve, which travels from the lower back through the buttocks and into the leg, is thought to be the cause of the pain in this condition. True sciatica is a condition that occurs when a herniated lumbar disc compresses one of the contributing roots of the sciatic nerve. This type of low back pain is less common than other causes and conditions that produce back pain.

In rare cases, sciatica can be provoked by tumours or infections. 1. Sciatica provoked by a herniated disc 2. Spinal stenosis sciatica 3. Sciatica caused by a degenerative disc disease

Exercises for Sciatica While most patients would rather rest in bed, sciatica exercises are the best solution to start the healing process for sciatica pain. After the patient has a sciatica access, doctors will usually recommend a small period of rest (one or two days), but not more, since being inactive will make the pain worse. That's because the spinal structure deteriorates further if there is a lack of movement. The result is a weaker support for the back and that can bring a back injury or a spine/muscle strain. When you exercise the discs, the fluids between them are well lubricated and healthy, and they also help strengthen the abdomen muscles and the back.

Two simple maneuvers will distinguish sciatica from piriformis syndrome in the majority of cases (when the problem is one versus the other and not both conditions at the same time). First, in a seated position, if one straightens the leg on the painful side (so that the leg is parallel to the floor), and the sciatica symptoms increase, this is usually a sign of true sciatic nerve irritation.

The term slipped disc makes it sound as if it can slip about inside. In truth the disc cant slip anywhere, it is firmly fixed at the top and at the bottom to the vertebrae above and below.

An important thing to know is that many people have disc bulges and have no symptoms at all. There are some other conditions that can cause sciatic nerve pain but they are much less common. These include degenerative disc disease, severe osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis. Fractures, tumours and infection can also cause sciatica.

In some cases, piriformis syndrome may cause true sciatic nerve irritation, as the sciatic nerve may run underneath or even through the middle of the piriformis, so contraction of the piriformis may produce sufficient compression of the sciatic nerve to produce actual nerve symptoms. This is one of the main sources of confusion when it comes to distinguishing true sciatica from piriformis syndrome.

Causes The sciatic nerve is commonly injured by fractures of the pelvis, gunshot wounds, or other trauma to the buttocks or thigh. Prolonged sitting or lying with pressure on the buttocks may also injure it. Systemic diseases, such as diabetes, can typically damage many different nerves, including the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve may also be harmed by pressure from masses such as a tumor or abscess, or by bleeding in the pelvis.

Symptoms The most common symptom of sciatica mimics the pain of a severe leg cramp. Depending on where damage to the nerve occurs, pain may be accompanied by numbness or tingling, a burning sensation or general weakness in the leg.

The disc can and does cause problems however. Sometimes the central area of the disc bulges, usually backwards and sideways. This can cause an irritation of the nerve root as it leaves the spine. Occasionally the bulge is severe enough to actually squash or trap the nerve but this is fairly rare.

What are the symptoms of sciatica? If someone has true sciatica then they often have pain in the legs, usually in the buttock, back of the thigh or calf. There may also be pins and needles and numbness in parts of the leg.

What causes sciatic nerve pain? The most common cause of sciatica is a disc bulge. The disc is a very misunderstood structure; it has been blamed for back pain ever since it was discovered. Over the years we have started to believe that the disc is a really weak and vulnerable structure.

To understand this you need to have a bit of an idea about human spine anatomy. The spine is made up of large bones called vertebra. These bones are separated from one another by spinal discs. Each vertebra overlaps the next at the back to form a joint called a facet joint.

But since the most effective treatment for the two conditions varies signficantly, it is important to determine the correct diagnosis if at all possible. In most cases there is an easy way to distinguish between sciatica and piriformis syndrome.

It is important to distinguish between sciatica and piriformis syndrome, because the treatment for the conditions varies, and getting the diagnosis right typically leads to more effective treatment.

Sciatica is caused by a sciatic nerve irritation. This is most commonly caused by a disc bulge in the lower back. What is the sciatic nerve?

A large amount of confusion and misunderstanding exists concerning the conditions sciatica and piriformis syndrome. There are some who insist that the two conditions are actually the same thing, but even though they can have symptoms that are very much alike, the underlying causes differ.

There are a lot of types of exercises for sciatica that can bring relief to patients, and they're different, based on what causes the pain. Most of them will target certain muscles with the help of stretching exercises.

The best way to tell if it is sciatica is to undergo a series of test that your physiotherapist or doctor can perform. These simple clinical tests will be enough to identify if the problem is an irritated sciatic nerve. Paula Fitzpatrick is a British trained physiotherapist specialising in the treatment of back pain. Visit The Lower Back Pain Toolkit for up to date, reliable information about the causes and treatment of lower back pain. Learn more about sciatica and sciatic nerve pain.

As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of true sciatica are very similar to piriformis syndrome. Both cause pain, tingling, burning, "electrical shock" sensations, and/or numbness down the leg, often all the way to the foot. In addition, both sciatica and piriformis syndrome tend to be at least partially related to biomechanical functional problems in the joints of the back and pelvis and they may even be present simultaneously in the same person, so it an be difficult to tell them apart.

 
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Running down through the middle of the spine is a channel called the spinal canal, its here that the spinal cord sits. The spinal cord is the main structure that passes messages from our brains to our bodies.

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Dr. George Best is in private practice in San Antonio, Texas. For more information, check out Dr. Best's free e-book and online video course to assist in understanding and treating sciatica and piriformis syndrome, including in-depth instruction on sciatica exercises at http://www.SciaticaSelfCare.com .

7. Hamstring stretching exercises for sciatica Each condition comes with a different type of exercise for it, which must be done the right way and regularly, usually two times each day.

Sciatica refers to pain along the path of the sciatica nerve. It is usually caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. Fortunately, most cases of sciatica are not serious and usually resolve within six weeks. The sciatic nerve branches off nerve roots at the lower end of the spinal cord - it's two branches run from the lower back through the each side of the pelvis, buttocks, back of leg to the foot.

The second maneuver is done in two parts. First, from the sitting position one bends the leg and pulls the knee on the painful side towards the same-side shoulder. In all but the most severe cases, there is usually no major increase in pain in this position. The second part of the maneuver is to pull the knee toward the opposite side shoulder. An increase in the sciatica-like symptoms is a strong indication of piriformis syndrome.

Piriformis syndrome, also known as "pseudo-sciatica" (meaning "false sciatica"), is actually referral pain and other symptoms (tingling, numbness, etc.) caused by tightness and knots of contraction in the piriformis muscle, which runs from the upper femur bone to the edge of the sacrum, the triangular pelvic bone that is below the lumbar spine. The symptoms of piriformis syndrome are very similar and may be indistinguishable from true sciatica.

When the nerve is irritated by the disc bulge it can become inflamed. Remember what it feels like to hit your finger with a hammer or catch it in a door for a moment. Following the nasty sharp pain you are left with a dull ache. The finger may become red and swollen; there may be some heat or warmth there. After a while, those symptoms settle and everything gets back to normal. Its very similar with the sciatic nerve. It becomes very sore and can give you a lot of pain, even though it is not actually trapped or squashed.

In most cases, the name sciatica is used when you have nuisances in the nerves area of the lower spinal chord or in cases of irregular compression. There are a number of conditions that can cause this.

4. Sciatica from isthmic spondylolisthesis 5. Piriformis syndrome can also cause sciatic pain 6. Sciatic pain caused by a sacroiliac joint dysfunction

Sciatica refers to irritation of the sciatic (often mis-spelled as syatic or psyatic) nerve, that arises from nerve roots in the lumbar spine. The most common cause of sciatic nerve irritation, or "true" sciatica is compression of one or more of its component nerve roots due to disc herniation or spinal degeneration in the lower lumbar region. Sciatica usually begins in the buttock area and, depending on the severity of the underlying nerve comression and inflammation, may extend down the entire leg to the ankle and foot.

Sciatic pain usually starts in the buttocks and extends down the rear of the thigh and lower leg to the sole of the foot and along the outer side of the lower leg to the top of the foot. Pain may also be present in the lower back.

Why are so many people given the diagnosis of sciatica? Very often, as soon as anyone has any lower back or leg symptoms they are told that have sciatica. However, there are other things that can cause leg pain; a strained facet joint for example can cause pain in the buttock and thigh. But if the sciatic nerve is not irritated then it is not sciatica.

In severe cases the leg may feel weak and the strength may be reduced. Often, disc bulges cause no back pain at all; the symptoms are felt only in the legs.

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You can consult a number of specialists to help you deal with sciatica pain, including psychiatrists, chiropractors, athletic trainers, physiotherapists or others that deal with lower body and back problems. You should always exercise under the supervision of a professional, to make sure you're doing it right. The exercises depend on the cause of the pain, so a good diagnosis is a must.

Commonly the major cause can be pinned as disc herniation in the lumbar spine which presses directly on the sciatic nerve and any triggers by such a reaction for example by irritation of the nerve from adjacent bone which in turn produces the symptoms of sciatica. Besides a compressed or a pinched nerve, other causes could also be tumors, muscle, internal bleeding, infections, injury etc. thus sciatica is not really a disease by itself but rather many other dependants make it into a medical condition worthy of attention

The fact that they are regularly involved in exercises makes the muscles more powerful and mobile, which insures that the recuperation process speeds up. A good side effect is that these type of incidents are prevented in the future with the help of exercises.

In the legs there are two main, large nerves, the femoral nerve at the front and the sciatic nerve at the back. The sciatic nerve passes down through the buttock area into the back of the thigh and leg.

Symptoms can vary from extreme pain in the low back radiating into one buttock and down the leg. Pain often increases on exertion or bending forward. Alternatively, there may only be a mild sensation in the leg or buttock. There may be numbness in the area, weakness in the leg and diminution of the reflexes. Pain may be triggered by coughing or straining and can be so severe that the lower back becomes locked in sideways bending position (scoliosis) caused by a strong contraction.

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