Sciatica is a term that refers to radiating pain that runs along the path of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body. Sciatica starts in the lower back and branches out to run down each leg terminating at the foot. That long connection on both sides means pain associated with this nerve covers almost half of your body, although most people feel that burning only 1 side. You may notice leg weakness on the affected side and experience bladder or bowel changes as part of an attack.
The most common cause is the pinching of the nerve by the spine. This form of pain is sometimes a symptom of a herniated disk or a bone spur on the spine. If the doctor can’t find a mechanical cause of the pain, it might be related to excessive weight or a chronic illness such as diabetes or osteoarthritis.
It’s a distinct type of pain that starts in the lower back right above the hips and radiates down the buttock and then the back of the leg. You may feel discomfort only along 1 area of the nerve, instead, so a pinching just in your back or a sharp sensation in your lower leg. You may also experience numbness in the affected limb along with muscle weakness. The sciatica nerve provides sensation to this area, so if pinched, it works less effectively.
Given the complexity of the sciatica nerve, IMC Physical Therapy believes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment may be the best option for most suffers. It starts with a physical exam to determine what’s causing your sciatica flare-up. The doctor may perform osteopathic manipulation when diagnosing and treating the problem at that time. A chiropractic adjustment might also take some of the stress off the nerve.
Most patients with this pain benefit from physical therapy, as well, to rehabilitate the muscle that surrounds the spine. A stronger back takes the pressure off the nerve and provides long-lasting relief.