The sciatic nerve is the largest peripheral nerve of the body, and as such is often affected when an individual is suffering from lower back complaints. Why is this, and what is the sciatic nerve? This article seeks to answer such questions.
The sciatic nerve is formed from the L4-S3 divisions of the sacral plexus as it arises from the spinal cord (the divisions of the spinal cord will be discussed in future articles). The nerve is roughly the size of an electrical cord, and runs from the pelvis down the back of the thigh. At the back of the knee, the sciatic nerve splits into the posterior tibial nerve (which continues down the back of the calf to the bottom of the foot) and the common fibular nerve (which runs down the front and side of the shin to the foot as well. The length and full distribution of the sciatic nerve make it one of the most commonly affected nerves of any type of spinal pain.
As with most nerves, the sciatic nerve has both muscular and sensory functions. The muscular division innervates the hamstrings, a portion of the groin muscles, all the way down to most of the muscles of the calf and foot. The sensory division supplies sensation to the buttock and the back of the thigh, down to the foot.
“Sciatica” is a general term given to any condition which produces pain down the back of the leg, but in truth the term encompasses a wealth of causes. Disc herniation, degenerative joint disease, degenerative joint disease, inflammatory arthritides, joint dysfunction, muscle spasm etc. may all lead to the symptoms of sciatica.
Appropriate diagnosis and management of sciatic symptoms is key to the role that a Chiropractor provides. Chiropractors are trained to assess and diagnose the underlying condition leading to the sciatica, and to correct the problem to allow the individual to return to normal functions. Also, Chiropractors are able to provide advice and exercises to prevent further injury to the associated structures that lead to the sciatic symptoms in the first place.
Perhaps the most important fact to remember is that Sciatica rarely involves any damage to the actual sciatic nerve itself. In most cases, the sciatic nerve is irritated by damage to the surrounding structures (discs, joints, muscles etc.) and is doing its job (ie- allowing the individual to realize that there are damaged structures. Thus, as in most cases when the musculo-skeletal system is involved, the underlying causes must be addressed to alleviate the symptoms.
If you are experiencing Sciatic Pain, book an appointment at Queen Street Chiropractic Centre today, and get on the road to recovery.