What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a painful condition resulting from irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It originates from nerve roots of the lower part of the spinal cord and extends the entire length of the leg and foot. The pain associated with sciatica may radiate anywhere along the nerve pathway. Sciatic pain is typically felt in the lower back, buttock and back of the thigh, although it may extend the entire length of the leg to the foot. The degree of pain varies widely, from a mild ache to excruciating discomfort. Some patients also experience numbness, tingling, and weakness in the effected leg. When sciatica is acute, sitting, driving, and bending forward are particularly painful.
Causes of Sciatica:
Sciatica has many causes. The most common causes are:
- Herniation of one or more discs in the lower back
- Degenerative changes in the lower back resulting in bone spurs
- Compression of the sciatic nerve from muscle spasm as it courses between or through muscles of the buttock before entering the back of the leg
Diagnosis requires a detailed history, chiropractic orthopedic and neurological examination, and sometimes diagnostic imaging studies (x-ray, MRI, CT scan). It is important that the origin of the compression and irritation be accurately determined so that proper therapy is initiated as soon as possible.
Depending upon the cause, most cases of sciatica will resolve in a few weeks with non surgical treatment. In more severe cases a multi disciplinary approach with prescription medication may be recommended. In cases where neurological complications such as muscle atrophy in the leg are developing, a surgical consultation will be recommended.
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