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Sciatica is a persistent, low back neuralgic pain experienced anywhere along the sciatic nerve due to its irritation by inflammation, pressure caused by arthritis growths, or a displaced/herniated disk in the lower spine. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve originating from the lumbosacral plexus in the buttocks, exiting the pelvis below the priformis muscle, entering the posterior compartment of the thigh where it descends through the back of the thigh and divides into two components (ommon peroneal and tibial nerves) while continuing down the calf, ankle, and foot. Both the terminal branches contribute to the formation of the sural nerve. (1,2)
Sciatica is also known as radiculopathy. Radiculopathy is a
term used to describe pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the legs.
The nerve problem affecting the low back (lumbar region) is called lumbar
Causes & Risk Factors
Irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve causes sciatica. The following reasons could cause this irritation:
6. Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis caused due to aging can also lead to Sciatica.
7. Other disease such as Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, pelvic infections, Reiter syndrome and various bacterial, viral or fungal infectious causing arthritis can lead to sciatica.
8. Sciatica could also be caused due to tumor, blood clot or abscess (boil). (4)
Various risk factors could cause sciatica such as:
Signs & Symptoms
Common symptoms of sciatica are radiating pain from the lower back which spreads through the buttocks, leg, calf and sometimes the foot. The pain is generally dull, aching or burning - getting worse during the nights and aggravated by motion. The pain could also worsen with prolonged sitting, standing, or when standing up suddenly (such as standing up from a toilet seat). The worst pain is experienced by sneezing, coughing, laughing or hard bowel movement. Sciatica can also cause tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the affected limb. General weakening of the leg or foot could also be experienced along with the pain (1) & (4).
Medical Tests & Diagnosis Methods/Tools
Diagnosis of sciatica includes physical examination and medical history:
Article by Kona Vishnu, MS
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