7 Signs of Sciatica and What You Can Do to Avoid It

7 Signs of Sciatica and What You Can Do to Avoid It

Sciatic nerve pain is common, especially today when Americans spend more time than ever sitting for extended periods without adequate exercise. The sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in your body, and it can be affected anywhere along its path, from its roots in your lumbar spine to the bottoms of your feet.

Because of the length of its pathway and the multiple structures that surround your sciatic nerve, sciatica can manifest in a variety of ways, and many other conditions can share similar symptoms. Accurate diagnosis is key to getting effective treatment, to eliminate sciatica symptoms and restore pain-free movement. Learn more.

Sciatic Nerve Fast Facts

Understanding more about your sciatic nerve and the ways it can be affected will help you identify sciatica in its early stages, and give you insight on how to avoid it.

The sciatic nerve is:

  • Protected by deep muscle tissues of the buttocks and legs, and cannot be palpated (felt) beneath the skin with your fingers.

  • As large in diameter as an adult thumb

  • Made up of both motor and sensory nerve cells, to send and receive messages between the brain and lower extremities.

  • Long and thick, and it needs to be able to glide freely between muscles, bones and connective tissues while the body is in motion.

  • Subject to entrapment or compression by other structures, anywhere along its path, causing pain and inhibiting free movement.

  • Responsible for innervating most of the muscles in your lower extremities, making it possible to walk, run and jump, and to stabilize the body while standing.

Sciatic Nerve Fast Facts

More sciatica facts:

  • Issues affecting the sciatic nerve roots in the lumbar spine are called lumbar radiculopathy.

  • When the nerve is affected further along its course, it is called sciatic neuropathy.

  • Sciatica symptoms can occur anywhere along the sciatic nerve, with pain manifesting at and below the affected site.

  • Sciatic nerve pain is most often felt on one side of the body, but it can affect both sides.

Sciatica Signs and Symptoms

Sciatica can range from mild discomfort to pain so bad you can’t walk. Seven of the most common sciatica signs include:

  • Stabbing pain on one side of your lower back that radiates to your buttocks.

  • Sharp pain in the buttocks that gets worse with physical activity.

  • Pain that shoots down the back of one leg.

  • Numbness and tingling in your lower leg and/or foot.

  • Muscle weakness and a feeling of heaviness in one leg.

  • Stiffness and reduced range of motion in one leg.

  • Pain so bad you can’t walk.

Sciatica Signs and Symptoms

Tips for Avoiding Sciatica

Anyone can suffer from sciatic nerve pain, but being sedentary, sitting for extended periods, or driving for long hours are chief contributors.

To reduce your risk of sciatica, follow these tips:

  • Stay or become physically active. Simply walking on a daily basis can help your sciatic nerve glide freely and avoid entrapment.

  • Strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles. Your muscles protect your sciatic nerve from becoming entrapped or compressed by bony structures and taut connective tissues.

  • Take frequent breaks from sitting throughout the day to move around and stretch.

  • Strengthen your gluteal muscles and stretch your hip flexors to restore and maintain neutral pelvic alignment.

  • Visit a physical therapist or chiropractor for posture assessment and correction.

Tips for Avoiding Sciatica

One Movement for Instant Sciatic Pain Relief

Sciatic nerve pain often resolves itself over time, but if you’re struggling to walk with sciatica, try this one movement for instant sciatica pain relief, and for promoting smooth gliding of the sciatic nerve:

  • Lie supine on the floor with your knees bent

  • Slowly straighten the unaffected leg

  • Clasp your hands behind and above the knee of your affected leg and bring your thigh perpendicular to the floor

  • Flex your ankle and slowly extend your knee, stopping just before you feel tension in the hamstring

  • Perform 20 ankle circles inward, and 20 outward

  • Bend and extend your knee 20 times, being careful to not stretch your hamstring

  • Return to your start position

  • Repeat periodically throughout the day to keep your sciatic nerve gliding without inhibition from other structures.

Best Sciatica Pain Treatment in NYC

Sciatic nerve pain can occur anywhere along the nerve’s path, and symptoms can vary. The sciatica specialists at NYDNRehab use high resolution diagnostic ultrasound to view the entire length of the sciatic nerve in real time, with the patient in motion. Ultrasound lets us identify the exact point at which the nerve is affected, so we can make informed decisions about the best course of treatment.

In addition to on-site diagnostic ultrasound imaging, the clinic at NYDNRehab features a broad range of high-tech treatment options that are rarely found in average physical therapy clinics. We provide our patients with the most accurate diagnosis and the most expeditious treatment protocols in NYC. Our personalized one-on-one approach to patient care makes NYDNRehab stand out as the best clinic for sciatica treatment in NYC.

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)

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Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)

image

Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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