The medical definition of sciatica describes it as an injury or problem in the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that begins in your lower back and descends to the back of your leg. Informally, any pain, discomfort or tingling sensation that extends through the leg can be called sciatica, although it may not originate in the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica can be generated from one or more points of origin. It often comes from pinched nerves in the lower lumbar or upper sacral areas of the spine. This can occur due to a herniated disc, or arthritis that causes the bone spurs to narrow in the openings where the nerves leave the spine. In any case, the pressure can cause irritation in the nerve, producing pain.
Sciatica can also result from a spasm in the piriformis muscle, which is found in the mid-gluteal area, since the sciatic nerve intersects with this particular muscle. If your pain seems to come from your backside, you may suffer from piriformis syndrome. This syndrome is usually caused by a muscle imbalance. It often appears as a result of weakness in the middle gluteus muscle, which serves to stabilize your hips when you are upright. If this muscle is weak, your body compensates by making the piriformis fulfill this function. The tension in the piriformis can generate spasms, which in turn exert pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause the pain that spreads through the leg.
If your pain in the lower back or sciatic nerve is interfering with your daily life, or if you feel a noticeable weakness in one leg, it is necessary that you go to your head health professional. As sciatica has many possible causes, each of these with different treatments, healing it appropriately depends on a thorough evaluation to obtain the corresponding more specific diagnosis.
Sciatica can often be resolved with conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, stretching, and oral medications to deal with symptoms. Any type of invasive procedure, including epidural injections or trigger points, should be considered only after consulting a specialist to determine the real origin of the pain or weakness.