The quick answer is sciatica is pain that radiates down the leg. The pain typically travels down the back of the leg and can go all the way to the foot. It's called sciatica because the pain typically travels along the sciatic nerve.
The Sciatic Nerve is a large nerve that starts in the lumbar spine or lower back and travels through the pelvis, down the back of the thigh, and branches into smaller nerves in the lower leg and foot.
To learn more, watch this VIDEO on the Anatomy of the Spine.
The quick answer is Sciatica may result from several issues. It usually comes from issues in the lower back. The joints and discs in the lower back have many nerve endings or receptors that detect pain. Those nerve endings branch off of the nerves that make up the Sciatic Nerve. If a nerve ending is irritated or activated, it can cause pain that radiates down the Sciatic Nerve path.
Sciatica pain does not necessarily mean that a nerve is being pinched. Even mild irritation can sometimes cause pain that radiates down the leg. More severe issues usually cause pain to radiate further down the leg.
The quick answer is that piriformis syndrome is a less common cause of Sciatica. The piriformis muscle lies under the gluteal muscles in the buttocks and helps to rotate the hip outward. The sciatic nerve is very close to the piriformis muscle. If the piriformis is really tight or inflamed, it may cause sciatic nerve pain in the leg. Tightness or inflammation of the piriformis muscle can contribute to sciatic nerve issues.
The quick answer is that you should not stretch nerves. Muscles need to be stretched, and nerves don't. Many people with sciatica have the urge to stretch the hamstrings due to feeling pain in the back of the thigh. This may actually be a Sciatic Nerve Stretch and increase pain due to pulling on an irritated nerve or lower back structures. Typically, gentle movements of irritated structures are best for decreasing pain.
Many people find relief with gentle basic exercises. The exercises should not increase symptoms and should be performed slowly. Some clinicians believe in Williams Flexion Exercises and others like McKenzie Extension Exercises. Many clinicians perform a combination of both exercises.
In physical therapy, we call these the 3 sciatic nerve stretch exercises: (We call these Sciatic Stretches, but they are really lower back stretches.)
Lying flat on your back, take both your hands and place them on top of your lower leg below the knee. Next, gently pull your knee to your chest in a controlled manner. Hold 10 seconds, repeat 3 times. This helps stretch the lower back gently.
Lay on your stomach and keep your hips flat to the table. Next, press your upper trunk up until you can place both elbows under each shoulder. Hold 5 seconds, repeat 10 times. This helps stretch the lower back.
Lay on your back with the knees bent. Rotate the back to allow both legs to move together from side to side. Keep the shoulders flat on the surface. Hold 5 seconds, repeat 10 times on each side. This may be a remedy for low back pain for some people.
It is difficult to self-diagnose the source of Sciatic Nerve Pain. But if the problem is a tight piriformis, lay flat, cross the leg you want to stretch over the other leg, which is bent at a 90-degree angle. Reach down to the bent leg around the hamstring area and pull back. You should feel a stretch in the buttock of the crossed leg. Again, hold 30 seconds and repeat two to three times. If pain increases, stop immediately. This is also an exercise for the hip for some with lower back and hip pain.
To learn more Stretches for the Lower Back, watch this VIDEO.
JOI has a dedicated spine center to help. The Spine Center has specially trained spinal clinicians with a vast array of treatment options for sciatica, low back, and hip pain. If the exercises do not help or your pain increases, STOP immediately and consult a medical professional.
Initial treatments may include laser and manual therapy or massage to help calm the acute pain. When the pain is controlled, advancement with functional mobilization and core strengthening will be implemented. The final phase will be education on an effective home program to maintain the progress gained with treatment.
If you want to learn more about low back pain, go to https://www.joionline.net/trending/content/low-back-pain
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