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The sciatic nerve runs from your pelvis, through your hip area and buttocks and down each leg, and it is the longest nerve in your body. As it travels down the legs it branches into smaller nerves that provide feeling to your thighs, legs, and feet, and serve to control many of the muscles in your lower legs. The pain that sometimes radiates along the path of this nerve is called sciatica.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica is a sign that something is putting undue pressure on a nerve in your lower back. Most usually, the nerve is being compressed by a bulging or herniated lumbar disc. Another cause is piriformis syndrome, which happens when the piriformis muscle lying directly over the sciatic nerve becomes tight or goes into spasm, putting pressure on the nerve. Men can occasionally suffer sciatica from sitting for too long on a wallet in their back pocket.
Pain Pattern of Sciatica
The classic sciatic pain is that which radiates from your lower spine to your buttock and down the back of your leg. This may be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected leg. The severity of the pain can vary from a mild ache to a sharp burning, to excruciating discomfort. Sometimes, the pain may feel akin to an electric shock. Sciatic pain usually comes on gradually and worsens over time, and can be exacerbated by when you sit, cough or sneeze.
Treatment of Sciatica
Sciatic pain can very often be relieved through a treatment combination that includes chiropractic care, stretching, and deep tissue massage (trigger point therapy) of the piriformis muscle. When the piriformis muscles are identified as the main culprits and pain is chronic, a trigger point injection may be needed, whereby a small amount of anesthetic is injected directly into the muscle to break the cycle of spasms, although this is not commonly required.