In Western society Sciatica is a common aliment, particularly in the 30-50 year age group. It describes a set of symptoms that include hip, buttock and leg pain radiating from the low back along the apth of the Sciatic Nerve. This nerve is formed from the L4-S3 spinal nerves which join up as they exit the low back. It runs through the buttock, down the back of the thigh and leg, into the foot.
Sciatica may feel like a bad leg cramp that lasts for weeks or months before it goes away. You may have pain, especially when you sit, sneeze or cough. Discomfort ranges from mild to incapacitating, andmay be accompanied by tingling, numbness or muscle weakness.
Like the term slipped disc, sciatica is a term often misued to describe any pain in the leg tha may orginate in the lower back. True sciatica only involves pain caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve or its branches. Pain in the front of the thigh or groin, although possibly referred from the low back , is not sciatica.
Sciatica is a set of symptoms not a diagnosis. This point is important, because treatment for sciatica will often vary, depending on what is irritating the nerve, causing the pain.
Some sources of sciatica:
Lumbar disc – this includes disc protrusion that compresses the L4 or L5 nerve root as it exits the spine. The outer fibrous layer of the disc weakens with wer and tear and eventually allows the inner jelly-like nucleaus to bulge out and irritate the nerve root. The presence of a disc protrusion can be condirmed by specialised imaging such as CT scan or MRI.
Lumbar joints – in some cases misalignment of the spine causes inflammation, irritating the nerve roots and producing sciatica. Your chiropracator will perform tests to determine if the sciatica is more disc or joint related.
Muscular – the sciatic nerve passes through, or front of, the pirformis muscle, deep in the buttock. Spasm of this muscle due to pelvic imbalance can compress the sciatic nerve – a condition known as Piriformis Syndrome.
Only rarely is sciatica caused by serous pathology that requires medical referral. The majority of sciatic cases respond well to chiropractic care and specific exercises.
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