Sciatica Nerve Pain
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Sciatica nerve pain or sciatica is nerve pain from a problem with your sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It is about as big around as your thumb and it runs from the back of your pelvis through your buttock and down into your lower thigh. 

  

  

  

  

  

The Largest Nerve in Your Body

It is formed in your pelvis by nerve roots that join together after they exit your lumbar spine. In your lower thigh the sciatic nerve begins dividing into the peroneal nerve, the tibial nerve, and the other smaller nerves that ennervate your lower leg and foot.

Do Not Annoy the Sciatic Nerve

You may experience sciatica nerve pain anytime the sciatic nerve is annoyed. 

This can also happen when the nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve are squeezed, bruised, or otherwise irritated.

The Sciatic Nerve is Fragile

Inflammation of the lower branches that the sciatic nerve can also cause the pain of sciatica.

Surgeons performing surgery in the region take great pains to avoid bothering the sciatic nerve. 

In Your Buttock and the Back of Your Thigh

Sciatica nerve pain is usually felt most in your buttock and posterior thigh. It may also radiate up into your lower back and down into your lower leg, foot, and even your toes.

It just depends on exactly what is causing the pain, where it is causing the pain, and how severe the problem is. 


The Sciatic Nerve comes out of the back of your pelvis and into your buttock and thigh.

Image thanks to Gray's Anatomy, via Wikimedia Commons

The Most Common Cause of Sciatica Nerve Pain

Probably the most common cause of Sciatica nerve pain is compression of one or more of the nerve roots in the lumbar spine. This can occur when arthritis and/or spinal stenosis closes up the space for the nerves. 

Other Possible Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain:

Disc Herniations and Disc Bulges pressing on a nerve root in the Lumbar Spine
This will often cause symptoms similar to spinal stenosis with low back pain
radiating into your buttock and thigh. 

Piriformis Syndrome with the piriformis muscle irritating the sciatic nerve
Piriformis Syndrome is a common cause of sciatic nerve pain in athletes
who do not stretch regularly or effectively. 

Injury to the peroneal nerve from an accident or during knee replacement surgery
The lower branches of the sciatic nerve pass very close to your knee.
If they are stretched or otherwise injured during surgery you may experience the pain of sciatica. 

Damage to the sciatic nerve during hip replacement surgery
The sciatic nerve exits the back of your pelvis very near to your hip joint.
During surgery surgeons take great care to identify and protect it. 


Your Pain and Other Symptoms may Vary

The Sciatica nerve pain that you experience will vary depending what is causing your pain. The pain from the nerve being gently squeezed by spinal stenosis will different than the pain from inflammation and irritation.

Like "a Toothache"..... or .....Like "Lightning Bolts"

Some people describe their pain as a constant deep ache "like a toothache". Other people complain of sudden electrical sensations "like lightning bolts" that shoot down through their buttock and thigh. 

Buzzing or Tingling........... or ............Burning Cold Numbness

Your sciatica may be a burning cold numb kind of feeling in your lower leg and foot. There can also be a buzzing or tingling feeling, or a needles and pins feeling associated with it. 

Red Flags and What You Need to Do

Sciatic nerve pain can present in many different ways and what you should do will depend on the severity of your symptoms and if they are getting worse. 

When you are experiencing any of these different kinds of pain, if the pain is mild and does not limit your activity you are probably safe just monitoring your symptoms to see what happens. Maybe they will go away without treatment. 

When Symptoms are Severe

However, it your pain limits your activity or seems to be getting worse you will need to be seen by your doctor. Some of the causes of sciatic nerve pain can evolve into serious conditions if not treated properly. 

Anytime that you suspect that you may have a problem with your sciatic nerve there are two things that you need to be alert for:

Progressive muscle weakness

These symptoms may be as subtle as you notice that 1 foot always drags, or you keep tripping over little things that you would normally step over without noticing. They can also be as obvious as you suddenly cannot walk up the steps they way you did last week. 


Difficulty controlling your bowels or bladder

As we age it is normal to see changes in the way our bowels and bladders work. But sudden changes can indicate a problem.

Especially, severe constipation or inability to empty your bladder when you feel the urge need to be evaluated immediately. 

Risking Permanent Disability

These can be signs of serious nerve problems and possible nerve injury that may cause permanent disability if not treated promptly.

If you are experiencing these symptoms you need to be seen by your doctor immediately. 


  


  

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