True sciatica pain is caused when the nerve is pinched or irritated at the point of origin. This sciatica pain is usually radiated down the leg and called lumbar radiculopathy. It is common for people who have this type of leg pain to always refer to the pain as sciatica pain. However, this is not true, frequently the pain is referred from a joint pain, usually hip, caused from osteoarthritis. The cause determines treatment guidelines, so your doctor will spend time talking to you about the origin of the pain and whether or not it may be sciatica pain.
The sciatic nerve originates from 5 different nerve roots in your lower back. It is the largest nerve in your body, measuring almost the size of a pencil in diameter. It extends through your buttocks and down the back of your legs to your toes. It is also the longest nerve in your body. Its function is to innervate the muscles in your buttocks, legs, feet, and toes. It also provides sensation to the same areas.
Below are some facts about the anatomy of sciatica.
- Shock absorbers or disks are in between each backbone, acting as both a cushion and stabilizer. The outer disk becomes inelastic and stiff, as one gets older. At times, the outer core becomes weaker due to its lack of flexibility, the inner core may protrude through to the outer core, or may herniated completely, protruding outside of the core. When the inner core protrudes backwards it presses against the spinal canal.
- The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves, which runs through a canal from the base o your brain to almost the end of your spine. Thirty-one nerves are active from the spinal cord in between the vertebrae or backbone, providing muscle movement and sensation to the rest of the body.
- Muscles and ligaments also run the length of the spine, providing strength and power to the rest of your body as well as support and stability to the spine itself.
Sciatica pain can be caused by many different actions of your body. If you feel as if you are experiencing symptoms of sciatica pain it is best to consult your doctor to determine whether or not the pain is sciatica pain or another type of back pain.