What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is the name given to a set of symptoms caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and starts from the lumbar spine (lower back) and travels through the pelvis and buttock region and continues all the way down the back of the thigh, the calf, and into the bottom of the foot and toes.

Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain

Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain can vary; they can be anything from intermittent aching to severe pain and can include pins and needles, tingling, numbness, cramping or muscle weakness. Pain is most commonly felt in the lower back, hip and buttock area but can sometimes also be felt in the calf and back of the thigh.

Symptoms are often made worse by bending, sitting, coughing, sneezing, or going to the toilet.

Causes of Sciatica

There are many different causes of sciatic nerve pain, and getting an accurate diagnosis is important for receiving the right treatment plan in order to recover quickly.

The causes can include:

Herniated or bulging disc – the bulging part of the disc compresses the nerve as it exits the spine.

Muscle tightness – the Piriformis muscle which is in the buttock area can spasm or become overly tight. This can cause irritation to the sciatic nerve as it passes under – or sometimes through –  the muscle.

Narrowing of the nerve canals or spinal stenosis – the joints in the spine can degenerate and bony growths or osteophytes* occur, these can put pressure on the nerve.

Infection – an infection within the spine or the surrounding structures can cause inflammation which can irritate the nerve.

Pregnancy – the position of the baby can put pressure on one of the sciatic nerves and cause pain.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see one of our osteopaths to find the underlying cause and get a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.


*osteophytes are a bony projection associated with the degeneration of cartilage at joints.


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