Sciatica is not a medical condition, but a symptom that is associated with leg pain. The severity of sciatica will usually depend on the extent of your injury, and it can be severe, debilitating, temporary or progressive. The injury is usually caused by a degenerative disc disease, lumbar herniated disc, spinal stenosis and pregnancy. The main cause of pain in the leg is due to the irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body supplying the muscles of the lower extremities.
The sciatic pain symptoms
The pain experienced with sciatica is typically along the areas of the distribution of the sciatic nerve, more specifically on the muscles that the sciatic nerve supplies for motor function. The typical sciatic nerve pain symptom usually starts as a pain felt in the lower back and buttocks. The pain is usually characterized as a sharp, shooting pain that travels down the leg. The pain is felt on one side of the buttocks and runs down the back of the thigh, the leg and foot. Because of the characteristic radiating pain in sciatica, it is commonly called as sciatic nerve pain.
The nature of sciatic nerve pain
When you have a sciatica, it is very common to experience the sensation of pins and needles. This type of symptom is a manifestation of a nerve injury or irritation that can produce the feeling of discomfort that is often accompanied by numbness and weakness on the thigh down to the leg. This type of leg pain is felt due to the inflammation of the sciatic nerve that branches down from the lower spine to the buttocks, thigh, leg and foot.
Acute leg pain usually occurs when there is a nerve tissue injury involved, but it may heal within a few days or weeks, depending upon the extent of its injury. The most commonly affected part where the pain is felt is in the muscles, spinal joints and ligaments. When the pain persists for more than three months, chronic sciatic pain is suspected and the nerve injury may be too severe that it can progressively worsen over time. Chronic leg pain may hamper the performance of activities and may worsen with sitting and standing where the load over the sciatic nerve in the spine is greater. Lying down and walking will help relieve this load from the sciatic nerve.
Manifestation of sciatic nerve level involvement
The symptoms of leg pain in sciatica are actually defined by the level of nerve root involvement. The sciatic nerve exits on both sides of the lumbar and sacral segments of the vertebra to innervate the left and right legs. When the injury involves the sciatic nerve located on the fourth segment of the lumbar spine, the characteristic pain in the leg is concentrated on the thigh and usually accompanied by weakness and the inability to raise and straighten the leg. The injury to the sciatic nerve injury at the fifth lumbar segment will manifest pain in the big toe and the ankle with numbness. When the nerve exiting on the sacral segment is injured, there is a greater involvement of the heel, the outer part of the foot and the little toes.
Other symptoms will also accompany the leg pain, such as a low back pain. The sciatic nerve irritation may further become aggravated with improper posture of the back and by the hip movement of bending and twisting.
When the leg pain is chronic, it can result in the difficulty of walking. It is best to see your doctor immediately to obtain a proper diagnosis of your condition and to get the appropriate treatment in order to get relief from the sciatic nerve leg pain symptoms.