The sciatica is the longest nerve in the human body.
The Role of the Sciatica Nerve
By definition, sciatica refers to the pain that occurs when the sciatica nerve becomes injured or inflamed. Sciatica can occur anywhere along the route of the sciatica nerve, but is most commonly felt in the back of the thighs and in the calves. Causes of sciatica can vary widely. Sciatica can be a result of direct trauma to the sciatica nerve as in an accident or it can be caused by something as common as a muscle spasm that puts pressure on the nerve.
What does the Sciatica Nerve do?
The sciatica nerve, the longest in the body, runs a path from the base of the spine, through the pelvis and buttock regions, and down the backs of the thighs. Once the nerve reaches the calf area, it branches off into two sections. One section travels down the inner side of the calf and ankle and the other section follows a path down the outside of the calf around the ankle through the tops of the feet and into the toes.
This nerve provides sensation to many areas in the legs, calves, feet and toes. The sciatica nerve is also responsible for assisting muscles that allow movement in the knees, ankles and feet. When the sciatica nerve is damaged, it is not uncommon for a person to feel numbness, weakness or pain in any place the nerve passes through.
Causes of Sciatica can vary
Many causes of sciatica exist. Instances of trauma to the sciatica nerve have been reported from accidents injuring the pelvic region, diseases such as diabetes damaging the sciatica nerve, osteoarthritis induced bone spurs narrowing the spinal canal and tumors placing pressure on the nerve. More commonly, however, the cause of sciatica can be found in a herniated lumbar disc. Either through injury or just constant wear and tear, the disc can become less supple and shift between the vertebrae. When this happens, inflammation of the sciatica nerve can occur through direct pressure of the bulging disc or through chemicals released from the cells of the herniated disc.
Diagnosing Causes of Sciatica
While many forms of treatment will help the sciatica nerve to heal, the most improvement will occur when the root cause of the sciatica is addressed. In order to do so, a visit to the doctor may prove to be helpful. Physicians will combine a patient's history along with neurological tests and a physical examination to determine the most likely causes of sciatica. Sometimes, a MRI scan may be necessary to correctly diagnose a patient's condition. A MRI can help a physician to see herniated discs, bone spurs, nerve damage, and tumors. Knowing the causes of sciatica can help a doctor to treat the patient much more effectively.
Nerve Damage usually temporary
In the majority of cases, the sciatica nerve will not be permanently damaged. Healing may take several months, but the pain will most likely continue to decrease as the healing progresses. Adopting a regimen of daily exercise at this time will speed up the healing process as well as help to prevent future episodes.
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