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What is Sciatica ?

Sciatica describes a collection of symptoms that can arise with sciatic nerve compression. This nerve is the largest and longest in the body, running from the base of the spine and down through both legs. Sciatic nerve compression can lead to pain that begins in the lower back and moves through the buttocks, legs and feet. It is also characterized by other symptoms like burning, cramping, muscle weakness, tingling and numbness. Sciatica generally occurs on one side of the body, but it can affect both sides.

The sciatic nerve is about an inch wide and consists of multiple nerve bundles. Sciatica is produced when this nerve is being compressed or pinched. Compression is often caused by a herniated disc or a bone spur, most commonly in the area where the nerve passes out of the spinal column in the lumbar (lower back) region.

What Are The Causes Of Sciatica?

Sciatica, a form of nerve dysfunction (peripheral neuropathy), occurs when there is compression on, or damage to, the sciatic nerve. This nerve innervates the muscles behind the knee and lower leg. It provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg and the sole of the foot.

Sciatica arises most frequently because of pressure being placed on the sciatic nerve caused by a degenerative spine condition such as a herniated disc, a bulging disc, a protruding disc or a bone spur. The condition often is diagnosed as radiculopathy. This means that the damaged disc or excess growth of bone is positioned in such a way that it places pressure on the nerve root.

Sciatica might also be caused by an injury, including a fracture of the pelvis or trauma to the buttocks or thigh. Another factor could be prolonged external pressure on the nerve, and pressure on the nerve from nearby anatomical structures, including certain muscles. Sciatica might also arise in cases of nerve entrapment, which entails pressure on the nerve where it passes through an opening (foramen) between two vertebrae to exit the spinal column. The underlying cause of the symptoms is the prevention of the passage of proper motor and sensory impulses along the length of the nerve.

Diseases that affect the entire body, such as diabetes, can damage many different nerves, including the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve also may be harmed by pressure from a tumor, abscess or by bleeding in the pelvis.

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