Sciatica Symptoms - What to Watch Out for

Published: 24th January 2012
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Sciatica pain can be irritating and occur infrequently for some people, whilst for others it can be considerably more painful and have more severe consequences.

Most of the time the pain starts in the lower back and then pushes down through the lower thigh and down the sufferers leg, with oftentimes only a single side of the body being affected.

It is common to find that the pain in the leg is considerably more severe than the pain in the back, even though both may be evident.

Here are nine Sciatica Symptoms that commonly occur:

1. When moving the foot or leg the patient experiences a sense of weakness of numbness

2. Leg pain is more severe then back pain (even if both occur to some degree)

3. A searing or sharp pain as opposed to a dull pain is felt

4. A seeming dichotomy in the way the two hemispheres of the body feel, with typically pain appearing predominantly on one side rather than the other

5. An enduring pain in the left or right leg or buttock, but not usually both

6. Pain that gets worse when the patient stands up or sits, but when they start to walk or lie down the pain lessens

7. A feeling like prickling through the leg, combined with the leg feeling weak or numb and possibly pins and needles sensations

8. One leg being dramatically more affected then the other with pain (typically quite severe) or shooting sensations through the leg which make walking or standing difficult

9. Possible pain in the toes of the foot, or the foot itself. This depends on several factors such as the location of the affected sciatic nerve, and how harsh the pain overall is.

Sciatic Nerve/Root Sciatica Symptoms

There are five nerves that bundled together are what we would commonly consider the sciatic nerve. Three of these come out of the sacral segment (S1, S2, S3), whilst the other two (L4 and L5) come out of the lumbar spine.

When these five branch out in the foot and leg area, then the sensory and motor functions are delivered.

Depending on the location of the compressed nerve root you will find that different Sciatica Symptoms will be triggered. Here are three examples:

1. Nerve Root S1 - You will find that typically this type has the most impact on the outer area of the foot, and that sometimes this can spread out into the toes, and particularly the little toe. Common areas of concern are standing on tiptoes and raising the heel both of which may cause a weak feeling in the patient. It is also possible that the patient may notice a reduction in the ankle jerk reflex.

2. Nerve Root L5 - The top of the foot may feel numb or even in pain, especially in the area between the second toe and the big toe. This commonly affects the ankle (causing a dropping in the foot) and the big toe.

3. Nerve Root L4 - Occurs when the leg is straightened, and often impacts the thigh area. With weak feelings and a noticeably reduced knee jerk reflex.

Often patients will experience several of these together as multiple nerve roots may have pressure exerted on them.

Areas of Concern Where Immediate Action Needs To Be Taken in Relation to Sciatica Symptoms

There are two occasions when immediate surgery, or at least medical care, may be needed if the symptoms of sciatica very rapidly worsen:

1. Nerve Damage - If symptoms persist in worsening, then there may be nerve damage. This is especially the case with the patient noticing areas of weakness which are linked to progressive neurological decline.

2. Both Legs are affected- This is known as 'bilateral sciatica' and is potentially very serious. It can cause bowel or bladder dysfunction or incontinence, and this may be indicative of cauda equine syndrome, which is where an acute compression may have occurred in one or many of the nerve roots.

If either of the above two symptoms presents themselves, then medical care should be urgently sought.

How can Sports Massage help Sciatica?

While sciatica is most commonly a result of a lumbar disc herniation directly pressing on the nerve, any cause of irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve can reproduce the symptoms of sciatica.

It is wise to not only treat the symptom of sciatic pain, but it is important to address the source that is causing the herniated disc in the first place. Sports Massage therapists are trained in spotting muscular imbalances that can develop around the thigh and pelvic regions. Basically any repetitive action can cause some muscles to strengthen and over develop compared with its opposing muscles.

Muscles are designed to move a joint by contracting (shortening) its fibres, pulling the bones that it is attached to together, hence creating movement. Therefore, every muscle has an opposing (antagonist) muscle to counter balance the original movement and move the joint back into equilibrium. If one muscle becomes too strong or too dominant compared with its opposing muscle, it can cause the antagonist muscle to weaken and fade away. Prolonged periods of muscular imbalances and the resulting joint restriction can cause the weakened muscle to concede position, creating compression.

In sciatica, it is common for the quadriceps, hip flexors to become dominant and strong causing the pelvis to pull downwards in the front, hence creating a compression in the lumber back if the buttock muscles are too weak to resist this movement. This muscular imbalance can overtime cause a herniated disc resulting in the pain and symptoms that occur from the nerve being pinched.

Sports Massage Therapy can loosen, stretch and lengthen these shortened, strong muscles whilst toning the weaker muscles allowing balance to re-occur.

Author: Fran Kehoe

Fran is a fully qualified and insured Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist with ITEC Diplomas in Sports Massage, Reflexology, Anatomy & Physiology, Holistic Massage and a FHT Certificate in Deep Tissue Massage.

For more information on how Sports Massage can help treat Sciatica Symptoms please click here:

Or call Fran for a no-obligation initial discussion of your problem: 020 8166 8958

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