Radiation into Legs / Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is a collection of nerve roots originating in the low back which join together to give sensation and messages to the lower leg and foot. “Sciatica” is defined as pain down the back of the leg associated with the sciatic nerve.

The current theory on the cause of sciatica is that one of the nerve roots which contributes to the sciatic nerve is inflamed or compressed from an irritated or herniated disc. This may reveal itself as a specific pattern of numbness, depressed reflexes or muscle weakness.
Unfortunately, “sciatica” has become a catch-phrase for any pain down the leg. However there are many other structures which can give sciatic-like symptoms including:

1. Piriformis Syndrome: A muscle in the buttock called piriformis may put pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause sharp buttock pain or achy pain into the back of the leg or calf.

2. Sacro-iliac joint sprain: the joint between the sacrum and the pelvis may give pain into the buttock and leg. This pain usually does not go below the knee and tends to be achy or vague in nature.

3. Facet Joint Syndrome: the ligaments and capsules around the joints between the vertebrae in the low back can be the cause of leg pain. Usually this low back complaint is described as “sharp with certain movements” and the person may also experience hip/buttock or leg pain which stays above the knee.

Narrowing of the Vertebral Canal (Stenosis): Usually targeting people in their 50’s or older, narrowing of the vertebral canal may put pressure on spinal structures. Symptoms include low back and leg pain – often worse when walking and better when resting in a flexed position.

There are many causes to leg pain. If you are experiencing sciatica, the best course of action is visit a health professional such as a chiropractor who trained in diagnosing musculoskeletal complaints. He or she will take a proper history, perform a physical examination and determine the cause and best method of treatment for the leg pain.

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