What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a term that describes symptoms of pain, numbness, and/or weakness that radiate along the sciatic nerve from the lower back to the buttocks and leg. The medical term for sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy.
It is important to remember that sciatica is a symptom of an underlying condition, not a diagnosis in itself.
Sciatica symptoms can result from lower back disorders between discs L4 and S1 that put pressure on or cause irritation to a lumbar nerve root.
It can also occur when a disc degenerates, which releases inflammatory proteins that irritate the adjacent nerve… HOWEVER there are many additional causes of sciatica… Piriformis Syndrome or Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction or simply muscle problems/spasms can lead to leg pain causing sciatica symptoms. See below
The complex anatomy of the sciatic nerve means that symptoms of sciatica vary depending on where this irritation occurs.
The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body, running from the lower back through the back of the leg, and down to the toes.
The sciatic nerve starts as a collection of nerve fibres in the lower spine which combines to form one large nerve and is about as thick as a man’s thumb at its largest point. It travels through an opening in the pelvis called the greater sciatic foramen, and typically runs below the piriformis muscle.
The sciatic nerve then travels down the back of the upper thigh to above the back of knee where it divides into two nerves, the tibial and the common peroneal nerve, both of which serve the lower leg and foot.
Sciatica symptoms are typically felt on only one side of the body. They may include a combination of leg and foot pain, weakness, tingling or numbness.
Sciatica pain is often described as searing or sharp, as opposed to achy or throbbing. Depending on where the sciatic nerve roots are compressed, symptoms may be felt in different areas of the leg and into the foot.
- Pain and/or numbness in the medial lower leg and foot
- Weakness may include the inability to bring the foot upwards (heel walk)
- May have reduced knee-jerk reflex
- May have weakness in extension of the big toe and potentially in the ankle (called foot drop)
- Pain and/or numbness at the top of the foot, particularly in the web between the great toe (big toe) and the second toe
- May include: pain and/or numbness in the lateral, or outside, of the foot; a weakness that results in difficulty raising the heel off the ground or walking on the tiptoes
- May have reduced ankle-jerk reflex
The sciatic nerve can get irritated as it runs under the piriformis muscle in the buttock. If the piriformis muscle irritates or pinches a nerve root that comprises the sciatic nerve, it can cause sciatica-type pain.
This is not a true sciatica (lumbar radiculopathy). However, because the leg pain can feel the same as sciatica or radiculopathy, it is sometimes referred to as sciatica.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
Irritation of the sacroiliac joint—located at the bottom of the spine—can also irritate the L5 nerve, which lies on top of the sacroiliac joint, causing sciatica-type pain.
Again, this is not a true radiculopathy, but the leg pain can feel the same as sciatica caused by a nerve irritation
At Healthy Harmony we carried out a full consultation, a physical assessment and tests to trace the site of clients pain and specific sciatica symptoms.
No matter if your sciatic pain is brand new or if you’ve been dealing with it for years, massage therapy can help you find relief.
Massage therapy helps alleviate sciatic nerve pain in 2 ways:
Tight lower back muscles can place stress on your nerve roots. Massage therapy loosens these muscles and helps prevent pinching or irritation.
A massage encourages the release of pain-fighting endorphins—this can provide temporary relief from symptoms like the throbbing pain in your foot or the burning sensation in your leg.
Massage therapy may not permanently solve your sciatic pain, but as one component of a well-rounded treatment plan, including exercises & stretches that Healthy Harmony also offers following a massage, it can help alleviate your symptoms while providing you with a relaxing and enjoyable experience.