What is Sciatica (or a Pinched Nerve in the Lower Back)?

What is Sciatica?

sciaticaA “pinched nerve” is a term that is often used to describe the medical term, sciatica. This is the name given to the pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling of the leg that is caused by pressure or injury on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is a symptom of a medical problem, not a medical condition on its own.

Starting at your lower spine and running down the back of your legs is a long nerve, called the sciatic nerve, that controls the muscles behind your knee and lower leg. This nerve also provides sensations to the back of your thigh, part of your lower leg, and the sole of your foot.

What Does Sciatica Feel Like?

Since sciatica is actually a symptom of an underlying problem, it’s important to know what that symptom feels like. Sciatica pain generally starts slowly, but may get worse:

  • After standing or sitting
  • At night
  • When sneezing, coughing, or laughing
  • When bending backwards or walking more than a few yards

The pain associated with sciatica can vary widely and may feel like a mild tingling, dull ache, or a burning sensation. In some severe cases, the pain may be enough to make a person unable to move.

Most of the time, the pain you feel will occur on one side. Your leg may feel weak while having sharp pain in one part of your leg or hip and numbness in other parts. The pain or numbness may also be felt on the back half of your calf or on the sole of your foot

What Can Cause Sciatica?

More than likely you’ve heard the term “pinched nerve”, and probably may have even experienced the symptoms, but what exactly causes sciatica?

The term “pinched nerve” not only describes the pain that is sometimes felt, but may actually describe what has happened to your sciatic nerve. It may have been pinched inside or outside of the spinal canal as it passes into your leg.

Below are some conditions that may cause sciatica:

  • A herniated, or slipped disc that causes pressure on a nerve root. This is the most common cause of sciatica
  • Pirformis syndrome – a small muscle that lies deep in the buttocks that becomes tight or spasms and puts pressure on and irritates the sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal stenosis – a condition that results from narrowing of the spinal canal with pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Spondylolisthesis – a slippage of one vertebra so that it is out of line with the one above it, narrowing the opening through which the nerve exists.

Can You Help Me Relieve the Pain?

WebMD described a study of 400 people that were experiencing lower back pain and received either weekly massages, or permission to try whatever they wanted (including medication, visiting a chiropractor, doctor or physical therapist, or doing nothing at all). After ten weeks of treatment, the massage recipients reported better functioning and less pain. More than a third of those participants said their pain was completely or almost gone. Only 4% of those in the other group reported similar improvements.

Based on the information from that study, it can be concluded that massage therapy can help to relieve or eliminate your pain that is caused by sciatica. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a pinched nerve, schedule a massage session, and I will customize your massage to focus on the cause of your pain.

If you are new to massage and would like to have more information about the entire massage process, I would recommend you look over the information that I have created just for you!

PubMed Health
Cleveland Clinic