Sciatic pain often occurs in the buttocks or legs and even down to the toes. It is caused by the sciatic nerve which runs through these areas becoming compressed or irritated. Sciatic pain can last for a few weeks but left un-treated may last for years.
Sciatica (leg pain) is usually caused by pressure on one or other of the three lower spinal nerves in the lower back. These are L5/S1, L4/L5 and S3/4. The most frequently encountered is an L5/S1 in which case the pain is usually felt down the back of the leg, sometimes down to the foot and toes.
The cause of this pressure may be a slippage or restriction of the joint, degradation of the joint and or a prolapsed or bulging disc.
Sciatica may be an accompaniment to or a consequence of, the low back situation referred to above. When the pressure on the nerve or joint become too great, the pain is felt down the legs and can become acute. It can also, of course manifest as a numbness or tingling. It may run down the leg or may just be felt in a particular area.
An example of this is groin pain, which may just be a type of sciatica caused by pressure on the L3/4 nerve root. And the numbness in the foot, caused by the L5/S1 nerve root pressure.
Always though the problem is in the spine. It may be overstrain, degenerative, or a sudden acute incident causing it. There is no hard and fast rule.
The more severe sciaticas are usually due to disc pressure. The so-called PID (prolapsed intervertabral disc) pressing on the nerve root. The back then usually goes in to a reactive spasm with sideways bending of the low back. These should not expect an 'overnight miracle' but will improve gradually with conservative management.
Muscle strain itself can also be solely responsible for sciatica.
Finally the sacro-iliac joints in the pelvis may also radiate sciatic pain. Differential diagnosis is important.
Treatment for Sciatica may be carried out in several ways. The most frequent method is through osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation. This may be either by gentle pressure techniques on and around the painful area to release muscle spasm, or there may be actual manipulation of the joints themselves.
Acupuncture is another way. With this method, small fine needles are inserted in and around the painful area. A release of local tissue anti inflammatory compounds then occurs and pain is relieved.
Low level laser is another method. Here the laser head is held over the painful area for up to 5 minutes. No pain or any sensation whatsoever is felt by the patient.
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