The sciatica nerve begins in the lower spine, and extends down into the back of each leg. Some of its motor functions include moving the muscles behind your knees and in your lower legs. The sciatica nerve also allows us to feel sensations in the back of the thigh, the lower leg, and the bottom of the feet.
When there is pressure put on this nerve, or when damage occurs, the result can be pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in one of your legs. This condition is called sciatica.
There are a number of conditions that could lead to a pinched sciatic nerve. Here are a few of the most common:
Injury or deterioration of one of the discs in your back
Bone spurs on one of the vertebrae in the spine
Genetic conditions like spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal
The following examples do not lead directly to sciatica, but they could contribute to pinching a nerve in your lower back:
Wearing high heels
Sleeping on an unsupportive mattress
Sciatica symptoms can show up in a number of ways. Sufferers may experience pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling. This can occur in the soles of the feet, either leg, a hip, or one of the calf muscles. The symptoms are generally worse when you are in a seated position, and they can be aggravated by coughing or sneezing. A tell-tale sign that your discomfort is being caused by the sciatica nerve is that the symptoms usually occur on only one side of the body.
That being said, the sensations experienced can vary widely in intensity. It can show up as just a mild tingling, or flare up into a burning sensation that inhibits the movement in your leg or foot. Extreme conditions could even lead to a loss of bladder or bowel function.
Testing for sciatica generally begins with a physical exam. Your doctor will check out your knee and foot to analyze your movement, reflexes, and ability to feel sensations. Your doctor may also perform a blood test to rule out an infection. X-rays or an imaging test like an MRI will help us identify any structural damage to your bones or tissues.
Sciatica treatment plans combine medication, in-office therapy, and lifestyles changes for implementing into your daily routine at home and work. Treatment plans can include some of the following:
Heat or ice therapy
Ibuprofen or acetaminophen
Steroid injections to reduce inflammation
Physical therapy to strengthen support muscles and improve posture
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