What Is Sciatica?
We’ve all heard someone complain about their sciatica acting up, but what does that really mean? The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body; it stems from each side of the lower back, deep through the gluteal muscles, branching out down the back of each leg and into the foot.
Its primary role is to connect the spinal cord to the muscles in the leg and foot. Sciatica is any condition in which the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. It can be extremely painful and cause numbness, tingling and pain all the way down to the foot and toes. People often describe it as a shooting pain down their leg.
The piriformis muscle starts at the bottom of the spine and connects to the top of the femur. It works to turn the leg, hip, and foot outward, and the sciatic nerve runs beneath it. Piriformis syndrome is often connected to sciatica and happens when the piriformis muscle in the buttock goes into spasm and irritates the sciatic nerve.
What Causes Sciatica?
Depending on symptoms and mechanism of injury it can be determined where the sciatic nerve is being compressed. True sciatica is when the pain and symptoms are going all the way down to the toes, this is when the compression is happening at the spine.
When this occurs the nerve is irritated at the level of the spine usually by a herniated disc or disc bulge. A more common type of sciatica is called pseudo sciatica or piriformis syndrome, where the nerve is being compressed by the piriformis muscle found in the buttocks. In this case the pain can stay in the low back and hips, and refer down the leg but usually stopping above the knee.
Treatment And Relief
The first step is to determine where the sciatic nerve is being compressed and why this is happening. Sciatica can be a very serious condition or can be treated quite effectively with massage, physiotherapy and chiropractic care.
Once the type of sciatica is identified the length of treatment and recovery will very. Often piriformis syndrome can be resolved within a few weeks with the proper treatment plan. Disc herniations can take longer, doctors and specialists may need to be involved to determine the right course of action.
If the compression of the sciatic nerve is happening at the piriformis muscle it is very important that stretches are done to release tension and pressure off that muscle, and other muscles in the hips, glutes and legs. These include:
Please make sure that you are properly evaluated before starting on a treatment and exercise plan. In general developing a strong core is crucial in treating sciatica and piriformis syndrome. Depending on your condition, Apex physiotherapists can develop a program for you to follow at home that will help to minimize and prevent future flare-ups.
How Apex Can Help
If you’re suffering from sciatica or piriformis syndrome call us and make an appointment. We’ll evaluate your condition and develop a course of treatment that’s effective for your situation. Treatment may include: