Why Sciatica is Like a Runny Nose
Unlocking the Secrets of Rehabilitation: A PT’s Perspective — Michael McKindley, DPT
Sciatica can be like a runny nose – annoying, persistent, and hard to ignore. It can also be the symptom of something else. But just like a runny nose, it’s not enough to just treat the symptoms. To truly get to the root of the pain, a thorough evaluation is essential. Read further to learn more about sciatica from Michael’s perspective about what it is and what it isn’t.
Sciatica is numbness, burning, weakness and tingling down the back of the leg, including below the knee into the foot. If it’s above that, it’s not the true definition of sciatica.
Sciatica can come from a herniated disc in your back, which is what everybody assumes it is, and it’s not always. It can come from a stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal or foramen. Typically, spinal stenosis will occur bilaterally so it’s in both legs, so people think they have bilateral sciatica when truly they have stenosis that’s coming from the back.
Sometimes stenosis can occur on one side. It can come from a bone spur in the spine. It can come from a SI Joint Dysfunction and it can come from a pure compression. And sometimes it’s a combination of them.
The Piriformis Muscle Could be Causing the Pain
The pain can also be attributed to the piriformis muscle that is located in the buttock region. It starts at the lower spine and attaches to the top of the femur bone. The piriformis muscle is responsible for rotating the hip joint and providing stability to the pelvis during movement.
You may hear the term piriformis syndrome. I don’t like to use the word piriformis syndrome because the true definition of piriformis syndrome is that the sciatic nerve, bifurcates or splits through the muscle. It’s actually a birth defect, very rare, but it does happen. The only way really fix it is to cut the piriformis to release the muscle. That is a true definition of piriformis syndrome.
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