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What is Sciatica?

What is Sciatica? 

Sciatica is one of the most misunderstood diagnoses in the healthcare community. Athletes we treat often complain of having sciatica but it's much more complex than many think. Other healthcare providers including MD’s often tell patients they have sciatica but never explain where the pain is actually coming from. Our goal here is to simplify what sciatica is and where it may be coming from. 

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Sciatica is an umbrella term. Meaning you can use the term “sciatica” to explain many different pain behaviors. Those could include pain in the low back, buttock, pain in the leg, or numbness and tingling in the lower leg and foot. There are many different symptoms of scaitica and all are caused by different reasons. Here are a few: 

  • Lumbar Radiculopathy 
  • Piriformis Syndrome 
  • Sciatic Nerve Impingement 
  • Disc Herniation 
  • Peripheral Neuropathy  

Sciatica is often used just to describe low back or leg pain. It’s a broad term. All the above diagnoses are treated differently from one another. Here is a basic overview of each of the different diagnoses outlined above: 

  • Lumbar Radiculopathy is nerve entrapment in the lumbar spine that sends pain down the leg often causing numbness and tingling as well. 
  • Piriformis syndrome is when the sciatic nerve gets stuck in the piriformis muscle which is located underneath the gluts 
  • Sciatic Nerve Impingement is entrapment of the sciatic nerve somewhere along its pathway down the leg. It can get stuck at many different areas in the lower leg and will produce symptoms distally. 
  • Disc Herniation is when the discs of the spine get ruptured and the fluid inside the disc leaks out and pushes on a nerve root in the spine. 
  • Peripheral Neuropathy is caused when any nerve, not just the sciatic nerve, can get stuck in the leg. Symptoms will appear and be specific to that particular nerve being stuck. 

Sciatica can be used to describe any of the diagnoses above. The above list is not exhaustive rather the most common we see in our clinic. Our Doctors at Elevation Athletics have successfully treated athletes with all the symptoms mentioned above. If you're dealing with Sciatica and want a clear path and direction to overcome your pain, email info@elevationathleticspt.com. Living pain free is possible.