Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying medical condition—it is not a medical diagnosis in and of itself. The term sciatica describes the symptom of nerve pain that radiates down the leg, past your knee.
You may also experience:
Tingling, numbness, or weakness
Pain that originates in the lower back
Pain that travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.
The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body! It goes from the low back, diagonally through the butt cheek, down the back of the thigh, and then it splits, behind the knee, to run down the back of the leg, all the way down to your toes. It controls muscle movement in the back of the thigh and other parts of the leg, and foot, as well. It also is how your brain knows what a lot of your leg is feeling!
Any condition that causes the Sciatic nerve to be irritated can result in you feeling pain, or any other sensation that the nerve can feel (vibration, numbness, tingling, hot, cold, etc).
What causes Sciatica?
Excess pressure on the Sciatic Nerve causes Sciatica. It gets inflamed and irritated, and you suffer for it! Common conditions that get on your (sciatic) nerves include
A herniated disc,
An injury to the low back that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Every day, repeated movements that cause mild injury (or stress) build up and contribute to conditions that are the underlying causes of sciatica
Episodes of sciatic pain tend to occur when excess pressure is placed on tight or imbalanced piriformis or hamstring muscles.
Sciatica flare-ups can have a number of causes, including:
Prolonged sitting (or driving)
Sleeping in an awkward position
Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft
Wearing high-heeled shoes
Engaging in a new physical activity
Traditional Sciatica Treatment
Sciatica and Sciatic-like pain is very common and there are a multitude of causes. Proper diagnosis can be difficult and — given the limited time many providers have, to spend with each patient —usually requires imaging and other costly diagnostic tests.
Traditional treatment tends to focus more on affecting the symptoms and not treating the actual condition. This often-times leads to a decline of your health, and hope, until they schedule you for surgery that may or may not help!
Treatment options usually involve rest/limited activity, drugs for pain relief, epidural steroid injections, and week after week of therapy.