Sciatica is the term used to describe the symptoms related to compression, inflammation, or irritation of nerve roots in the lower back. These nerve roots converge to make up the sciatic nerve, which continues down the length of the leg to supply movement and sensation to the thigh, knee, calf, ankle, foot, and toes.
Symptoms of Sciatica can include:
Some patients with sciatica experience muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling. You may experience these feelings in the areas below.
- Pain in the lower back
- or foot
Common Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica may be caused by:
- A herniated disc
- Spinal degeneration or misalignment
- Spinal tumors (rarely)
- or trauma.
When any of these puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, the result can be inflammation, numbness, and pain in the affected side. Though the sciatic nerve is found on both sides of your body, you will generally only feel the effects of sciatic pain in one side of your body. The pain that is felt may be sporadic or become constant, depending on the extent of the pressure to the sciatic nerve.
Physical therapy can be an extremely useful tool in combating the symptoms of sciatica. The goal of any physical therapy program is to restore the body to normal movement and flexibility while reducing pain. For patients with sciatica, physical therapy concentrates on passive treatments (such as massage) in order to prepare the body for therapeutic exercise. These treatments may be used by themselves or combined with other therapies as needed to give you better results during your therapeutic exercise. Utilizing a whole-body approach in the healing process helps to relieve the pain caused by addressing the underlying cause of the pain instead of the pain itself.