The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body. It runs from the lower back region through the buttock and continues down the back of the leg. The sciatic nerve controls the movement of many muscles in the thigh and leg and provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg and the sole of the foot.
Statistics show that up to 10% of us will suffer with sciatica at one time in our life but it usually affects people from 25 to 50 years of age. Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the leg. It is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve and often affects people who sit for long periods of time i.e. at a computer or behind the wheel of a car/truck. An injury to the sciatic nerve will also cause sciatica. Sciatica is a symptom of another medical problem, not a medical condition on its own. Some more common causes of sciatic pain include:-
Sciatica can result when one the vertebral discs of the lower back protrudes outward and compress the nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve. This compression irritates the nerve and causes swelling and pain along the sciatic nerve. Herniated discs are the most common cause of sciatica.
Lumbar spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back region. When the spinal canal becomes narrow in this area, it can compress portions of the nerves that combine to form the sciatic nerve.
The piriformis is a small muscle located deep in the buttock region. It assists in abducting (lifting out) and externally rotating the hip joint. The sciatic nerve runs extremely close to the piriformis muscle, and occasionally runs through it. As a result, when the piriformis muscle becomes tight, it often puts pressure on the sciatic nerve causing irritation and inflammation.
Stretching and strengthening exercises that target the muscles of the lower back, abdomen and thighs can help reduce the symptoms of sciatica. There are a few beneficial exercises to help decrease pain associated with sciatica.
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