Whenever we address the issue of relieving sciatica pain, there are more differences than similarities when you look at the symptoms. But there is some common ground.
The sciatica nerve is the route traveled by pain and other symptoms, including weakness and numbness, from the lower back, spreading through the hips and buttocks and then down each leg. It commonly affects just one leg at a time — seldom both at once— and some sciatica sufferers will tell you that it tends to favor a particular leg in its travels. Not only does it typically choose one leg for its painful journey, but it may travel down the back, front, and side of the leg through the thigh.
There is occasional confusion with another type of pain that tends to travel down the back of the leg suddenly with a cramping intensity. This is more likely to be muscle overload, overstretching, or injury to the hamstrings that run down the back of your thigh to just below the knee. Pain may be extreme, then tend to go away after a few minutes of suffering, especially if it is from overload or overstretching. Relief from a hamstring injury will last much longer depending on its seriousness. It is most common during a sudden burst of activity, especially sprinting, and it not related to sciatica.
With sciatica, there is usually a physical cause— irritation, compression, or injury— generated at the origin of the nerve in the lower back, as we’ve discussed in previous commentaries on this condition. This needs to be considered when addressing recommended treatments provided through physical therapy, but let’s look at the symptoms in more detail.
One of the mysteries of sciatica is that it is not necessarily a sudden response to a stimulus like pushing yourself too hard when running or exercise. It can happen at any time, and you don’t have to be doing much of anything. This adds to the frustration, although you may recognize circumstances, movement are lack of movement that immediately precedes painful sciatica episodes.
Not Everyone Suffers in the Same Way
There are common sciatica symptoms, but not everyone suffers in the same way. For instance, some experience a constant pain when sciatica strikes and others describe it as intermittent at irregular intervals.
The type of pain is not always described as being the same:
- Some experience a shooting pain of divergent acuity; others as more of a burning sensation.
- As for the leg pain, which most sufferers say is more severe than in the back, it more often seems to take place below the knee in the calf region.
- You may find it more difficult to lift your foot off the floor due to a feeling of weakness.
- There may be a tingling sensation or numbness in the back on one of your legs, similar to the feeling when an arm or hand “goes to sleep.”
- The pain may worsen when you sit up or stand.
- For others, it is worse when lying down, which will keep you up at night.
Physical therapy is being increasingly promoted and prescribed by mainstream medicine as a place to go for relief from sciatica nerve pain and improve your quality of life with a personalized program. We’ll also suggest lifestyle changes that will promote healing.
—Call us today at (201) 651-9100 for an appointment at Oakland Spine & Physical Therapy or more information about how we can help you deal with Sciatica.