Who hasn’t said or heard the phrase: “Ah! My sciatic nerve is still acting up!” This famous nerve, which takes a lot of flack, is often involved in back pain, but mainly when this pain radiates into the buttocks. But what is is, really? Can it be treated or is it an incurable chronic pathology?
First, what is a nerve? In fact, everything starts from the brain. The nervous system (our electric current) extends into the spinal cord in the spine. After that, there are exits (spaces) between each vertebra where the nerve roots emerge. As soon as they are no longer protected by the two adjacent vertebrae, this root lengthens and becomes a nerve. The latter takes the role of bringing electric currents to the muscles to make them contract, thus creating movement – but it also brings various sensations to the brain, including pressure, heat and pain.
Now, let’s return to the sciatic nerve specifically. It’s the largest nerve in the human body. It passes into the buttocks, but its nerve roots are mainly L5 and S1, which pass between the 5th lumbar vertebra and the first segment of the sacrum (end of the spine).
Classically, we experience pain (or not) in the back, where it radiates to the buttocks and down to the toes. This pain may be accompanied by numbness, or tingling and weakness in the legs. A decrease in a specific area’s sensitivity can also be observed.
A physiotherapy examination can determine the pain’s source by various tests to confirm if the sciatic nerve is actually affected. From there, it’s important to find the cause and correct the situation in the mid- and long-term. At first, try reducing the nerve’s irritation by mobilizing it. This will release adjacent vertebrae and relax the muscles involved, which may be too tight. In addition, strengthening the muscles that stabilize the back is essential to avoiding relapses, or the return of recurring pain.
Don’t hesitate to consult your physiotherapist if you’re experience similar pain, as rapid intervention will help avoid pain in the long term.