Sciatica. You may have heard of it. You may even think you have it. But what is it exactly?
Sciatica is pain that is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is in your lower back, extending down your legs. Its characteristics are of pain in the lower back with possible referral into the upper posterior thigh to the knee. It can sometimes extend as far down as the sole of your foot. Sometimes it will be a dull pain, sometimes it will be a sharp shooting pain, sometimes even a bit of tingling or numbness. So how do we know if it’s sciatica you’re experiencing, rather than something else?
What is the Sciatic Nerve
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and a big supplier of smaller nerves to your lower limbs. It is made up of the spinal nerve roots of lumbar levels 4 and 5 and sacral levels 1-3. It has many nerve offshoots that extend to the bottom of your feet. When irritated, you can have symptoms / pains at any of these locations.
However, having pain in your lower limbs does not necessarily mean you are experiencing sciatic nerve pain. There are other phenomena that can lead to similar symptoms such as an active trigger point in your buttocks, which can have radiating pain in similar patterns to that of the sciatic nerve.
So how do you know whether your pain is sciatica or not? Your osteopath should be able to help diagnose this with a few simple tests. By relieving pressure around the lower lumbar vertebrae and sacrum and releasing any tight muscles in and around the pelvis and hips, your sciatic symptoms should reduce. With some conditions such as disc pathology, this may not be enough to completely relieve your pain, and other modes of treatment may be recommended by your physician.