Sciatica Symptoms Explained
Sciatica symptoms will vary somewhat from case to case, depending largely on the specific cause of sciatica, as well as the severity and location of the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica symptoms can be both localized at the site of nerve compression and be sent throughout the lower body. Pain and stiffness can be felt along the site of compression, typically just below the hip. Symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and muscle spasms can travel the length of the sciatic nerve and be felt at various nerve endings in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet.
How Does a Spinal Abnormality Cause Symptoms in Your Legs?
The spinal column and spinal cord stretch from the cerebellum at the base of the the brain down to near the tailbone, existing primarily in the human neck and back. How, then, could a condition in your lower back cause pain to shoot into your left heel? It seems odd for that to happen, but an understanding of the peripheral nervous system provides a great explanation. The peripheral nervous system is comprised of nerve roots that stem from the spinal cord and branch out through the body, giving way to separate nerves and nerve endings. Messages are sent back and forth between the brain, spinal cord, nerve roots, and nerve endings to provide sensation and motor function. The sciatic nerve - the longest and largest nerve in the body - begins in the lower back and branches off to serve the buttocks, legs, and feet. When the sciatic nerve is encroached upon and irritated in the lower spine, a message that the nerve is being constricted may be sent to a sciatic nerve ending in the lower body, resulting in sciatica symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, or muscle spasms occurring anywhere from the lower back to the toes.
What to Do When You Develop Sciatica Symptoms
If you believe you are experiencing sciatica symptoms, give your doctor a visit. This may seem obvious, but it is very important to do. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether the symptoms you are experiencing are, in fact, sciatica or not. Also, via a few tests, your doctor should be able to provide you with a diagnosis of the specific condition that is causing your sciatica, whether it's spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the nerve passageways in the spinal column), spondylolisthesis (vertebral slippage), or a herniated disc. After the cause of your symptoms has been diagnosed, your doctor will provide you with treatment options to relieve your sciatica. Initial treatments for sciatic nerve compression caused by a degenerative spinal condition include anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, epidural steroid injections, physical therapy, and gentle stretching.