The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain--and possibly tingling, numbness, or weakness--which travel and originate in the lower spine through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg.
Sciatica Nerve Pain
Sciatica can be characterized by one or more of these symptoms:
- Persistent pain in Just One side of the buttock or leg (rarely in both legs)
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Leg pain that is often described as tingling, burning, or searing (versus a dull ache)
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, or feet
- A sharp pain which may make it difficult to stand up or walk
- Pain that radiates down the leg and perhaps into the foot and feet (it rarely happens only in the foot)
Pain may differ from irritating and rare to incapacitating and continuous. Symptoms are usually based on the location of the nerve.
While symptoms may be extreme and possibly debilitating, it is uncommon for permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) to occur but it is possible.
- The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back, typically at the third lumbar vertebra (L3).
- At each level of the lower spine, a nerve root exits from the interior of the spinal canal, and every one of those respective nerve roots then come together to form the sciatic nerve.
Specific sciatica symptoms - leg pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and possibly pain that radiates into the foot - largely depend on where the nerve is pinched. For example, a lumbar section 5 (L5) nerve impingement may cause weakness in extension of the big toe and potentially in the ankle.
The Course of Sciatica Pain
Sciatica rarely occurs before the age of 20, and is most likely to develop around age 40 or even 50.
Because the term sciatica is often used to describe leg pain, estimates of its incidence vary. Some researchers have estimated it will affect up to 43% of the population at a certain point.
The majority of individuals who experience sciatica get better within a couple of weeks or months by using a variety of non-surgical sciatica treatments. However, for some, the leg pain from a pinched nerve can be severe and debilitating.
Seeing a Blair Chiropractic Doctor for sciatica pain is advised in order to check for more serious issues and to reduce the pain.
When Sciatica Is Serious:
Certain sciatica symptoms, although rare, require immediate health, and possibly surgical intervention. These include, but aren't limited to, progressive neurological disorders (e.g. leg fatigue) and/or bowel or bladder dysfunction. Infection or spinal tumors may also lead to sciatica.