Sciatica is nerve pain from irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and it begins from the L4, L5, S1, S2 and S3 nerve roots in the spinal cord in the low back and sacrum.
The nerve connects the spinal cord with the outside of the thigh, the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh, and the muscles in the lower legs and feet. This is why sciatic nerve impingement often results in muscle weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the leg, ankle, foot, and toes.
While sciatica is most commonly a result of a lumbar disc herniation directly pressing on one of the nerve roots, any cause of irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve can produce the symptoms of sciatica.
Some other irritations of the nerve can come from adjacent bone (osteophytes or boney spurs), muscle compression on the nerve (Piriformis syndrome), infections in or around the lumbar spine, spondylolisthesis, injury, spinal stenosis, cauda equina syndrome as well as a number of other issues.
Sometimes sciatica can occur because of irritation of the sciatic nerve during pregnancy.
Osteopaths are experts at diagnosing and treating the majority of causes of sciatica symptoms. While disc bulges or herniations are the most common cause of sciatica, invariably, we find that compensations from elsewhere in body increase the strain on the disc, and until these compensations are reduced or removed, the symptoms of sciatica will persist for much longer and/or reoccur more readily.