Sciatica is a condition where there is a structure in your body that is placing pressure on your sciatic nerve whether that be a disc, muscle, or other structure. The pressure is most likely being applied closer to your spine. This commonly results in symptoms to travel down into your leg. If it is the sciatic nerve, these will travel down the back of your leg. The symptoms can travel as far down as into your foot. Depending on how involved it is, it can vary from stopping at your buttock, your knee, or anywhere else down the back of your leg. These nerve symptoms are usually felt as numbness/tingling, weakness through the involved leg, a burning sensation, achey, or at times can be a cold sensation.
Sciatica falls under the umbrella of the radiculopathy diagnosis. Radiculopathy is defined as a condition in which a nerve root is pinched or irritated. This can happen in any region of your spine (neck, mid back, and low back). These areas of your spine all have corresponding nerve roots exiting them as you can see below. Radiculopathy Resource
Why Does This Happen?
There are a multitude of factors that can cause these symptoms to occur. Normal age related changes can contribute which includes arthritis, disc degeneration, disc herniations and spondylolistheis. It is important to know that these can be present without symptoms as well (See Figure below). It can also occur from trauma to the lower back causing a fracture or a significant disc herniation or bulge. A lot of the cases involve no specific incident at all and can happen randomly. The most important thing to do is see a professional such as physician or physical therapist to reduce your chances of this becoming a chronic issue.
Conservative Treatment for Sciatica
Sciatica is not a death sentence and is most commonly treated successfully with conservative treatment such as physical therapy, general exercise, corticosteroid injection, and others. My best is advice is to try your best at avoiding surgery. First step is to be assessed by a physical therapist, then develop a plan to make some lifestyle behavior changes, and keep it consistent for at least 4-6 weeks before talking about more serious interventions.
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