Struggling with Sciatica
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is neurological pain that usually accompanies back pain. Named after the sciatic nerve, sciatic pain occurs when you have shooting, numbness, or tingling pain that starts from your back and runs down the back of your leg to your foot. Sciatica does not always have to go past the knee; however, chances are more likely that you have sciatica if it does go past the knee. Three causes of sciatic pain could be due to bulging/herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and piriformis syndrome.
Bulging/Herniated Discs: the vertebrae in the spine are separated by discs, whose function is to aide in shock absorption and mobility. The inside of the disc consists of gel that assists with spinal function. If the gel pushes against the disc wall (bulging) or otherwise breaks through the disc wall (herniation), the contents/gel then compress the sciatic nerve.
Degenerative Disc Disease (arthritis): occurs when the discs of the spine degenerates or shrinks. This leaves less space between each vertebra, resulting in less space for the sciatic nerve to leave the spine without being compressed with certain movements.
Piriformis Syndrome: occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed due to a muscle in your hip called your piriformis. This occurs because the sciatic nerve passes through the muscle belly of the piriformis. If there is any tightness or muscle spasms of your piriformis muscle, then sciatic pain could occur.
A physical therapist can help identify what is causing your sciatic pain through clinical examination and will construct an appropriate plan of care for the cause of your sciatic pain. Please do not attempt to self-diagnose and treat yourself without consulting your primary physician or physical therapist. Any exercise that is performed where it feels that shooting pain/numbness/tingling is spreading further down your leg needs to be stopped immediately as this means you are causing more damage to your back and sciatic nerve.
Tom Kain, DPT