Herniated Disk (Sciatica)

Sciatica is referred pain as well as other neurological deficits (e.g. weakness, numbness, pins and needles) along some portion of the sciatic nerve, which originates in the lower lumbar spine and terminates in the heel of the foot. Sciatica may be due to a number of conditions that either compress the sciatic nerve or cause inflammation of it. The sciatic nerve the nerve in the body, and arises out of the lumbar spine and sacrum, which include many joints and soft tissue structures that are vulnerable to injury, due to its portion at the bottom of the vertebral spine. These soft tissues are vulnerable to wear and tear, and injury, because of the upright natures of our human spines, which involve a lot of weight being concentrated there. The unique architecture of our spines, combined with factors that may add to these intrinsic pressures, such as poor posture, weight gain, and sedentary lifestyles, may add to the already substantial pressures on the lumbar spine, possibly accelerating wear and tear on these structures. If the intervertebral discs of the spine become degenerated, they may flatten from a lot of nuclear material in their center (nucleus pulposus), or eject this central material through its outer wall (annulus fibrosus). This may cause the nerves to exit the spine to become compressed, resulting in sciatica due to a disc bulge or a herniated disc.

Though the site of the compression of the spinal nerves may be at the spine itself, patients may experience related symptoms at along any portion of the nerve. The radiating pain in the leg may or may not include pain in the lower back, where the source of the pain originates. Often the referred pain symptoms are more severe than the pain around the site of the squeezed spinal nerves in the lower back.

The sciatic nerve is not one single nerve that leaves the lumbar (lower back) spine and terminates in the foot. The sciatic nerve combines from several nerves above the leg, with two major branches that fork at about the level of the knee. The sciatic nerve is formed from several spinal nerves that pass through the openings in the sacrum, the buttocks and thigh, and down the back of the thigh to just above the knee before it branches for the first time. The shorter branch of the sciatic nerve turns toward the side of the leg away from the midline of the body and stops just below the patella. The longer branch continues down the back of the leg and terminates at the heel area.

When the spine and back and leg muscles are healthy, strong, and flexible, the sciatic nerve is able to deliver its signals throughout its main line and nerve branches without disruption, and we won't experience and back pain or symptoms associated with sciatica. When the sciatic nerve is constricted or damages due to disease, the disruption of this supply of information may cause patient symptoms such as electrical waves of pain, numbness, weakness, achiness, and burning. These symptoms may occur anywhere along the pathway where the sciatic nerve is injured or constricted. Disk herniations of the spine. Other causes of sciatica include weak back and abdominal muscles, emotional stress, and sacroiliac ligament tears.