Sciatica is the name we give doctors to a series of symptoms and exploratory signs that indicate that the sciatic nerve is pinched or trapped.
To understand it, you first have to explain what the sciatic nerve is. From the lower part of the back, a series of nerves come together to form a large nerve called a sciatic nerve. This nerve passes below the gluteal area and descends from behind the thigh. When it reaches the back of the knee (in the hamstring) it splits into several nerves that will go to the leg muscles. And on these muscles performs its function. That is, the sciatic nerve is responsible for the movement of the ankle and the foot, basically. It also brings sensitivity to the leg.
If the nerve is caught in the lumbar or gluteal area, symptoms may appear as pain throughout the nerve pathway and may even affect the sensitivity and strength of the leg muscles.
The most common symptom is electric pain that goes down like a cramp from the back of the thigh to the leg. But all the electric pains that go down the leg are sciatica? All these pains may be due to sciatic irritation but they do not have to be sciatica. This seems a bit confusing but you’ll understand right away.
When a patient tells us about these symptoms, we perform a medical examination on the stretcher to differentiate whether it is sciatica or a simple sciatic irritation. The difference can be important. The most frequent examination is a maneuver in which the patient is lying on his back and we lift his leg straight until pain occurs. In the photo of the post we can see the gesture that is made in this maneuver. If a paralyzing cramp appears behind the leg or there is a numbness or pain in the foot, then we know that it is probably sciatica. This means that something is causing the sciatic nerve to be trapped and cannot move freely, so when stretching it complains. It is as if we pull a rope that is anchored in a point, will become tense.
When performing this maneuver it is possible that when lifting the leg, we carry it up without having any of these symptoms. This is not sciatica. So why do I have leg pain that we have described as sciatica? If we perform the entire leg route without pain means that the nerve is not anchored and slips freely through the gluteus and leg, so we do not damage it when moving the leg. He is not trapped, but he may be irritated. These cases are of better prognosis because it indicates that the nerve is not suffering so much. Not being trapped, the symptoms of the leg are typical in the afternoon, when the muscles are tired, and not holding the lumbar area well may cause the nerve to become irritated.
The cause of sciatica can be any lesion that catches the sciatic nerve or the roots that form in the path they travel. The most common is the lumbar disc herniation, but there are other causes that we will discuss in other posts.
On the other hand, there are the consequences. Most often, the nerve is irritated and we only have pain. Much pain, but only pain. If we damage the nerves that carry the sensitivity, we will notice tingling in different areas of the leg or we could even lose the sensitivity in different areas of the skin. If it affects the part of the nerve that activates the muscles we can have problems of mobility in the ankle and the foot. Of this we will speak also in future posts.
I wanted with this post that we can understand sciatica but not replace in any case the proper assessment by a professional. It is important to consult with the doctor if we think that we are suffering an injury of this type so that it clarifies to us the diagnosis and the measures to take.
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