What is sciatica?
Sciatica describes symptoms such as numbers, tingling, weakness or pain that travels down the sciatic nerve, which runs down the back of the leg all the way to the heel. The sciatic nerve supplies the muscles in the back of the leg and also provides sensation in the back of the leg, calf, and feel. Sciatic pain, or sciatica, is not a medical condition on its own; it is actually a symptom of another problem or issue causing irritation of the nerve.
What causes sciatica?
Common causes of sciatica include: degenerative changes to the lumbar spine or spinal stenosis; lumbar disc herniation/bulging disc; or tightness in the hip muscles compressing the nerve, specifically the piriformis muscle. Other cases of sciatica include blood clots, obsesses, tumors, pelvic fractures or injury to the pelvis.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
Sciatic pain causes symptoms in the buttocks and below that can be described as numbness, a burning sensation, or achiness. There can also be weakness that develops in the hamstrings, gluteals and calves. Most often pain occurs when standing up after prolonged sitting, bending backward, when walking, and while sleeping.
How can a physical therapist help?
Physical therapists can fully access the lumbar spine, as well as the hips and pelvis, to determine more accurately what is causing the sciatic symptoms. Additionally, they can help educate and develop movement patterns that will prevent sciatica nerve symptoms from returning. Finally, physical therapists can assist with pain management and help return you to normal activity.
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