Have you got sciatica? Or perhaps you know someone does and want to help them.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is the medical term for the neurological compression of the sciatica nerve. This can give the sufferer a range of symptoms including pain, pins and needles or other altered sensation, weakness of certain muscles. These symptoms follow a specific pattern in the leg, following the areas innervated by the sciatic nerve.
Although the term sciatica should only be used for the specific entrapment of the sciatic nerve, it often gets used for all sorts of back and leg complaints.
There are various causes of back pain with leg pain, and not all are true “sciatica”. But that doesn’t stop many people thinking they’ve got sciatica, even though they’ve really got something else.
When healthcare practitioners diagnose your problem they pick up on clues from your history.
What Are the Clues that Healthcare Professionals use to Identify if You’ve Got Sciatica?
The location, cause (mode of onset), the character of the pain and how long it’s been there are all clues. Your healthcare practitioner will then carry out an examination to help confirm if you’ve got sciatica. It’s not common to need an MRI, although in some cases it’s very important.
Central Low Back Pain and Pain, Pins and Needles, Numbness or Weakness in the Leg
Your healthcare practitioner will ask you about the area and distribution of your pain. This gives them more clues to identify if you’ve got sciatica, or something else.
Low back pain that’s based at the center of your lower spine, along your belt line is often from a problem with the lower lumbar spine. Problems with this part of your back can pinch or irritate the nerve roots as they come out of the spine, causing sciatica. The nerve roots from your lower lumbar spine join together and form part of the sciatic nerve.
If you also have symptoms in your leg as well as this type of central low back pain, then you may have got sciatica.
Sciatic Nerve Irritation Gives a Classic Type of Pain in the Leg
With true sciatica you might get severe catching pain, or a deep toothache type pain into your leg – most often the outside of your calf.
Sciatic nerve irritation can also give you pins and needles, or numbness into your leg, especially the outside of you calf.
If you’ve got sciatica the pain or altered sensation in your leg is being caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve.
If I Haven’t Got Sciatica, Then What Have I Got?
There are a range of other conditions that can cause back pain with leg pain.
If your low back pain is slightly to one side? Is it focused over your hip or buttock region, around the area that the dimples at your lower back are?
You might think you’ve got sciatica, but actually it’s more likely to be a pelvic (sacro-iliac) joint sprain, or an irritation or spasm of the muscles in that area.
Interestingly you can also get sciatic symptoms secondary to a pelvic problem. In 20% of people their sciatic nerve can wind its way through the piriformis muscle.
This means that when the muscle contracts it can compress the sciatic nerve. If they have a pelvic problem causing their piriformis muscle to spasm or stay in a sustained contraction, then it can compress the sciatic nerve.
For these poor people they’ve got sciatica secondary to a pelvic problem.
If you’ve got sciatica then it’s worth seeking help from an osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist or other hands on healthcare practitioner.
They’ll assess what’s causing the sciatic nerve entrapment and work with you to come up with a plan to help.
The links from this blog about sciatica have come from www.backblog.co.uk. You can find out about their multidisciplinary team here.