Sciatica describes persistent pain felt along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, down through the buttock and into the lower leg and foot. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It controls the muscles of the lower leg and provides sensation to the thighs, legs and the soles of the feet. Typically, sciatica is only felt on one side of your body. Sciatica occurs most frequently in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old, however, we do see it in younger people (18-25) and in the older population (over 60).
Sciatica may be by lifting, bending, coughing, falling, or motor vehicle accidents. Numerous people have no idea what caused their sciatica. General wear and tear (Arthritis) in the discs of the lower spine can make you more likely to develop Sciatica.
The pathophysiology of sciatica can be found in the lower lumbar spine. This is where we find the discs. Disc herniation is one of the most common causes of Sciatica. The discs are between the bony vertebrae. Discs are the shock absorbers of the spine, the outer ring of the disc is cartilage. This cartilage can wear down, weaken and bulge or tear causing herniation. The inner disc contains a gel-like fluid which can compress the sciatic nerve resulting in pain, numbness and weakness in the back and leg.
Symptoms of sciatica can vary widely, but some of the most common symptoms are:
• Lower back and hip pain
• Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg
• Pain that worsens when sitting
• Leg pain described as burning or tingling
• Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
• Sharp pain that makes it difficult to stand up or walk
• Increased pain with coughing or sneezing
• Pain gets worse in the morning and is relieved with activity