The sciatic nerve is the thickest nerve in the human body. Irritation, bruising or inflammation causes severe nerve pain, which is often unbearable and radiates from the back to the hips, buttocks and legs. Pain originating from the sciatic nerve is referred to as sciatica (colloquially: “sciatica”).
Where does the sciatic nerve run?
The sciatic nerve (also known as the sciatic nerve) originates in a network of nerves in the lower back, travels down the buttocks to the back of the thigh and branches out at knee level to the feet.
How does sciatic pain arise?
In most cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc. The intervertebral disc presses on the nerve root (compression: sciatic nerve is pinched) and thus triggers the sciatic pain.
Sciatic pain can also occur when the sciatic nerve is inflamed (eg, in rheumatism). In addition, signs of wear and tear on the vertebral joints, vertebral inflammation (spondylitis) or tumors can also cause the symptoms.
In medical terminology, sciatic pain is referred to as sciatica or radiculitis.
Sciatic pain: symptoms
Sciatic pain can occur in attacks or be permanent. The symptoms are expressed along the body regions where the sciatic nerve runs.
Typical sciatica symptoms:
- Very severe pain in the lower back (“like an electric shock”)
- Pain radiating down the buttocks to the leg or foot (usually only one leg is affected)
- Possible side effects: tingling, numbness, burning, increased sensitivity to touch
- Coughing and sneezing can make the symptoms worse
In severe cases, the following symptoms may occur:
- movement restrictions
- signs of paralysis
- Problems emptying the bladder and bowels, incontinence (requires immediate surgery)
Sciatica sufferers often adopt a protective posture. For example, when walking, the affected leg is spared, causing the pelvis to tilt and the spine to become crooked. This can lead to muscular tension and make the symptoms worse.
Is it the sciatica?
In contrast to lumbago, where the pain is limited to a specific area of the back, sciatic pain radiates down the buttocks and legs down to the feet.
Any stretching of the nerve (such as bending over with your legs straight) increases pain in the sciatic nerve.
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