The term sciatica is commonly used to describe any pain in the buttock or leg.
Sciatic pain is often due to a problem at the level of the low lumbar spine, which stimulates nerves as they pass through this region. Although there is technically no injury to the leg, it’s possible to suffer from referred spine pain that is felt in the leg.
True sciatica is due to a nerve entrapment of the sciatic nerve. It is felt as a sharp pain radiating down the back of the leg and often into the sole of the foot and big toe. It may be associated with ‘pins and needles’ or even numbness, which usually starts in the big toe and works up the back of the leg.
This is due to an entrapment at the level of the spine (radiculopathy), more commonly known as a ‘slipped disc’, and is potentially the most serious form of sciatica. It can be highly variable sometimes giving an ache after activity, or so painful that sufferers are unable to stand and need morphine to help control the pain.
Sciatic pain may also result from a condition known as Pyriformis Syndrome. This may occur as the sciatic nerve runs close to the pyriformis muscle, located deep in the buttock, which may spasm due to a number of reasons and can lead to a trapped nerve.
This condition mimics the symptoms of a slipped disc almost completely but is usually much easier to correct and responds well to osteopathic treatment.