Sciatica refers to the pain caused by the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest in the body and it passes through the lower back, buttocks, and down each leg. It usually occurs in only one leg but it may be bilateral. Sciatica is mostly caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. The disc bulges out and compresses the sciatic nerve resulting in pain and sensory impairments in the affected area.
Sciatica can cause inflammation, pain, or sensory loss in the affected part. The pain of sciatica can be felt in a single region but usually, it follows a pathway radiating from the lower back then passing through the buttocks and proceeding to the posterior aspect of the thigh and calf. The sciatic pain tends to be more severe in the leg area. The nature of the pain may be sharp, shooting, or burning and the intensity varies according to the level of impairment. Prolonged sitting, standing, or coughing may also aggravate the pain. The pain is maybe intermittent or constant.
The sciatic nerve also supplies various muscles in the lower leg and controls the sensory supply of the foot and lower leg. So, it may also cause muscle weakness and numbness or tingling sensation in the various areas. It might also happen that you feel numbness in one part and pain in the other.
Sciatica itself is not a condition, rather it is a symptom caused by some other underlying pathology such as disc herniation, bone spur, spinal stenosis, etc. It may also be caused by any traumatic injury. So, to treat sciatica, the root cause has to be evaluated and diagnosed properly so that it can be treated properly. Following the diagnosis and proper treatment, lifestyle modifications, a healthy diet, and physical therapy sessions lead to a better and more effective recovery period.