What is Sciatica? | SA Wellness Centre

What is Sciatica?

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Sciatica and what you should know

Sciatica is not a diagnosis, but is a symptom used to describe pain that travels down the back of the leg. It may also be associated with numbness, tingling, and/or weakness. The typical pain of sciatica starts in your back or buttocks and radiates down the leg. It may go all the way down the leg to your feet or stay above the knee.

Sciatica

Strenuous activity can lead to sciatica.

The word “Sciatica” refers to the distribution of pain that occurs in the region of the sciatic nerve, hence the name, sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body and it runs from the lower lumbar spine extending from the back of the legs, knees and calf down to your toes.

This nerve plays a key role in helping the brain coordinate movements and maintain the balance in the legs. Sciatica can cause varying amounts of pain depending on the severity of the condition.

It can be extremely painful and difficult with symptoms including lower back pain, hip pain, a shooting pain that causes difficulties when standing up and pain in the rear leg when sitting, as well as weakness and numbness in legs and in the foot1.

Sciatica can be extremely painful with symptoms including lower back pain, hip pain and rear leg pain.

According to various studies conducted, a number of personal and occupational risk factors such as age, mental stress and smoking can lead to sciatica. The risks increase with height of a person while a majority of people in the ages between 45 and 64 years were found to be affected.

Strenuous physical activities and exposure to vibration from vehicles are some of the occupational risks2 that can lead to Sciatica.

Some causes may include:

Herniation in disks

An estimated 2.2% of the general population is affected by disk related sciatica2 and according to studies, 85% of all sciatica cases are caused by issues in the disks3. A herniated disk, also known as a slipped disk, is a result of the soft jelly like form that is present inside slipping out through a small crack or opening in the disk. This is common in patients who are older than 40 years of age. This condition leads to painful irritation and inflammation around nerve endings.

Osteoarthritis

Lumbar spine osteoarthritis is a condition that can also lead to sciatica. An estimated 40-85% of osteoarthritis cases is associated with the lumbar spine (lower back)4. This is caused by bone spurs which are projections of the bones near the joints that can occur during osteoarthritis. These bone spurs can press on the roots of the nerves which leads to sciatic pain in one or both of the legs.

Spinal stenosis

Damage to spinal joints, cysts or tumors within the spinal canal can lead to spinal stenosis that causes the space in the spinal channel to become reduced, exerting pressure on the nerve endings which in turn can cause sciatica.

Abnormal spinal movement

Poor posture and trauma to the spine can cause can cause the joints in the lower spine to cause irritations and inflammations that can result in sciatica. These include a number of joints including the sacroiliac joint which is between the pelvis and the sacrum.

Pain from muscles

A number of painful muscle syndromes can refer pain down the back of the leg, hence causing sciatica. Muscles involved may include the piriformis muscle, gluteal muscles, and hamstrings to name a few.

Spondylolithesis

This is a condition where a vertebra, the small bones that form the back bone, slips forward resulting in pressure on the sciatic nerve roots. The most common place of occurrence is in the lower back which is why this condition can cause sciatica. Trauma, arthritis, infections and cancer can cause this condition.

Pregnancy (especially if underlying mechanical issues are present)

Pregnancy is a time when sciatic pain and other pains associated with the back commonly occur. This is due to the weight of the growing baby and center of gravity that can be moved forward as a result. Due to these reasons, irritation can occur in the sciatic nerves causing pain and discomfort in either or both the legs of a pregnant woman. Even though an estimated 50% of pregnant women suffer from lower back pain, sciatica is quite rare and appears in only 1% of the population5.

It is extremely important that an appropriate assessment is done on someone who is suffering sciatica so the proper cause can be identified and the right treatment is administered. Our experienced staff of chiropractors have helped many people who have suffered with sciatica.

To find out how we can help you or for more information, call our centre on 08 8322 1788.

References

  1. Kiefer, D. (2018). Symptoms and Causes of Sciatica. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/sciatica-symptoms [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].
  2. Miranda H, Viikari-Juntera E, Martikainen R, Takala E, Riihimaki H. Individual factors, occupational loading, and physical exercise as predictors of sciatic pain. Spine 2002;27:1102-9.
  3. Younes M, Bejia I, Aguir Z, Letaief M, Hassen-Zroer S, Touzi M, et al. Prevalence and risk factors of disc-related sciatica in an urban population in Tunisia. Joint Bone Spine2006;73:538-42
  4. Pearce JMS. A brief history of sciatica. Spinal Cord 2007;45:592-596
  5. Goode, A. P., Carey, T. S., & Jordan, J. M. (2013). Low Back Pain and Lumbar Spine Osteoarthritis: How Are They Related? Current Rheumatology Reports, 15(2), 305. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11926-012-0305-z
  6. Katonis, P., Kampouroglou, A., Aggelopoulos, A., Kakavelakis, K., Lykoudis, S., Makrigiannakis, A., & Alpantaki, K. (2011). Pregnancy-related low back pain. Hippokratia, 15(3), 205–210.
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