If you think sciatica is a confusing topic, you are not alone. So we're here with a video walk-through to help you better understand both the causes of sciatica and the associated symptoms:
As you can see in the image above, your sciatic nerve is quite long. It stretches from your lower back down through the back of both legs and into your feet; making it the longest nerve in your body.
While sciatica symptoms are often felt through your leg, the source of the problem is actually in your lower back (where your sciatic nerve roots originate).
Causes of sciatica
Often, the underlying cause of sciatica is a spinal disc problem. This may be a herniated disc or a degenerated disc (caused by degenerative disc disease) that affects a sciatic nerve root adjacent to your disc.
Degenerative disc disease occurs when one of your discs start to break down, dry out, and flatten. This process usually occurs over time due to ordinary wear and tear.
Disc degeneration can release proteins (pictured above as small white dots) that may irritate the nearby nerve root.
Typically, sciatica symptoms are felt on only one side of your body.
You may experience numbness, tingling, or radiating pain through your buttocks, leg, or foot. Which symptoms you experience depends in part on your unique anatomy and which of your nerve roots is affected.
Sciatica may also be referred to as lumbar radiculopathy, which is the same thing.
While treatments can vary based on the specific underlying condition causing your sciatica, most people can benefit from the following treatments:
- Heat and/or cold therapy
- Low-impact aerobic exercise
- Pain medication
It is important to note that certain kinds of stretches and exercises can make your symptoms worse. So the first step in treating your symptoms is to have your doctor accurately diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms.
After you uncover the underlying cause, your doctor can help you create a treatment program that is tailored to your specific needs.
The good news is that surgery is rarely needed to treat sciatica symptoms, and symptoms typically subside within 6 to 12 weeks.