what is sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body running from the lower back all the way down the legs. Sciatica occurs when the this nerve is irritated or inflamed. The symptoms are pain, tingling, and/or numbness felt along part or all of the nerve path. It most often starts in the lower back or the buttock and travels down the outer leg, even all the way down to the foot in some cases.
What causes it?
There are many possible causes of sciatica – for example something can press on the sciatic nerve as in the case of a bone spur or herniated (slipped) disc. Another possible cause is piriformis syndrome.
Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis, a small muscle deep in the buttock presses on your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs directly under this muscle, and in some people, it actually runs right through the muscle itself.
Common causes of piriformis syndrome are overuse injuries – for example sudden increase in exercise (especially running and stair climbing). So called “weekend warriors” are especially at risk – it’s not good for your body to be sedentary all week and then suddenly try to do crossfit at the gym on Saturday afternoon.
It’s really difficult to determine the exact cause of sciatica and lower back pain. The good news is that most cases of sciatica will clear up within a few weeks.
If you have pain that is severe or continues for more than a few weeks see your GP for a diagnosis and treatment.
Basic self care such as gentle stretches and exercises can help. This NHS video gives some exercises to help relieve sciatic pain caused by piriformis syndrome.