Back Pain explains what back pain is and how it can be treated and prevented.
Sciatica is one of the most commonly diagnosed back pain complaints around. This article will explain what it is, the basic anatomy (nothing too complex of course!) and what goes wrong.
What Actually Happens?
The problem occurs when the sciatic nerve gets squeezed anywhere along its length and causes pain in the back and down the leg. Doctors tend to label any pain down the back of the leg as sciatica.
In reality, other structures can cause pain down the leg that have nothing to do with the sciatic nerve! For now, lets stick with the nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It starts in the low back as several strands of nerves that combine into the big sciatic nerve. This large nerve then makes its way down through the pelvis and down the back of the leg. It eventually splits into two parts at the knee and ends in the foot.
If the nerve is squashed at the back where it leaves the spine, the individual can feel the symptoms anywhere lower all the way down to the foot!
Disc as the Cause?
Leg pain is often present together with lower back pain but occasionally the individual may just have buttock and leg pain with no back pain at all. The most common cause of sciatica is from the so-called slipped disc. Basically the discs in your back are mobile. For example, if you bend forwards suddenly or too quickly, too much pressure can be placed on the discs and they are, in a sense squeezed backwards.
This causes them to bulge out and can squash the sciatic nerve that just happens to pass the area. Because the nerve runs all the way down the back of the leg to the foot, that is where you feel the symptoms! However, successful treatment requires addressing where the problem is and not where the pain is felt.
So TRUE sciatica, is where the sciatic nerve gets pinched and causes pain as a result. Relief from this problem is obtained by taking pressure of the said nerve. The difficulty is partly figuring out where the pressure is being placed. Also, as mentioned earlier, other things can give pain that is just like sciatica. It is important to separate the true cause in order to get a successful resolution.
Symptoms commonly include pain which can vary form being mild to excruciating! No understatement, it is a pain that has to be experienced to be believed! Other symptoms include tingling and numbness in the legs. It depends on the amount of compression on the nerve itself.
Classically, bending forwards makes the pain worse, as does sitting. Some relief is afforded on lying down. Laying down actually places the least pressure on the discs and therefore nerve.