Sciatica: A Short Description

Dan Westerhold, MOMT, PT
Sciatica is defined as pain radiating along the course the sciatic nerve, often in the butock and posterior aspect of the leg, to below the knee. Low back pain may or may not be present. The sciatic nerve is one of the largest peripheral nerves in the body, measuring 16 to 20 mm in the lumbar and the first, second, and third sacral nerve roots as they exit between the corresponding vertebrae. The general course of the sciatic nerve is through the buttock and down the posterior lateral aspect of the leg, thus the location of sciatica symptoms. Symptoms vary and may included severe pain anywhere along the length of the nerve, numbness, weakness of the dorsi-flexors of the ankle (inability to lift the foot and toes up), sensory loss over the lateral aspect of the foot, and are usually one sided.The most common cause of sciatica is herniation of the intervertebral disc. Sciatica can easily be assessed by a Physical Therapist or by diagonistic studies such aas a CT scan, MRI, or myelogram. X-rays are usually not helpful in diagnosing this condition. Treatment varies according to the location and mechanism of pathology.