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What is sciatica?

Location of the sciatic nerve

Sciatica, alternatively referred to as lumbar radiculopathy, is more appropriately a symptom rather than a diagnosis since sciatica pain is derived from an irritation of the sciatic nerve. The function of a nerve includes relaying messages back and forth between your muscles and your brain.

While the true injury usually resides in the vertebrae and the muscles surrounding the lower spine, the pain is referred to the legs, thighs and even the feet. This is the case because the sciatic nerve, responsible for transferring sensory and motor information between the spine and legs, runs from the lower back (lumbar spine) where it exits the spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord, and then the main nerve carries down through the pelvis and splits into each leg. Thus, any pressure on the sciatic nerve resulting from a herniated disc in the lower spine, for example, refers pain into the legs.Sciatic pain can range from cramping sensations to shooting pain in the hip or down the leg as well as constant pain in the buttock and lower back.

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True sciatica is technically defined by a pinching of the sciatic nerve. Typically those between the ages of 30 and 50 are more prone to back injury, most likely due to heavy physical labour or simply an over-exertion of the spine and surrounding muscles. Sciatica can be triggered by certain activities such as physical stress, poor posture and weight gain which increases pressure on the lower back.Generally, activities such as climbing stairs, walking, straightening the leg, and running agravate the nerve and increase the pain.

Location of the L4-5 vertebra in the spine

While a herniated disc in the lower back, from the lumbar vertebra L4-5 through the sacral vertebra S1-3,is the most common cause, other sources of sciatic nerve damage may include:

  • spinal stenosis

  • degenerative disc disease

  • isthmic spondylolisthesis

Other related conditions: piriformis syndrome and sacroiliac joint dysfunction

The variety of the aforementioned causes of your sciatica emphasizes the importance of a proper diagnosis. Generally, sciatica can be resolved by identifying and treating the underlying cause. An MRI, CT scan, or nerve function test may be necessary in order to determine the specific cause of your sciatica.

Although sciatica often gets better without any treatment, the healing process can be enhanced by following a few simple guidelines. Most episodes of sciatica are once-in-a-lifetime; however, some people have a tendency to have a flare-up occasionally. It may be necessary to adopt a lifestyle of preventive measures if you're prone to sciatica.

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Comfort measures for dealing with sciatic nerve problems may include physical therapy to help with muscle pain. If the pain is too intense for deep muscle massage, the therapist will often use sound wave technology such as MendMeShop Therapeutic Ultrasound. Ultrasound therapy has been proven beneficial in stimulating blood flow to the muscle mass.



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