Sciatica Symptoms: Do You Have True Sciatica?

Sciatica Symptoms Can Include Many Things

Surf Stretch

Sciatica symptoms include pain, numbness and tingling, buzzing, or electric shock type sensations. They usually are felt in the butt, thigh, calf and foot. This is because this is where the sciatic nerve runs.

The symptoms of sciatica are produced by compression and/or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is made of of the last 5 nerves that come out of the spinal cord. They are the last 2 lumbar nerves, L4 and L5. And also the first 3 sacral nerves, S1,S2, and S3.

Sciatica symptoms are mis-understood by a lot of people. In fact, the term “sciatica” has basically been turned into a catch all to describe any pain in the back, butt or in the leg. But sciatica is actually a very specific condition.

Real and Pseudo Sciatica Symptoms

Some people have real sciatic symptoms, and then others have “pseudo-sciatic” symptoms. The two are often confused for the other and referred to as “sciatica”. In a lot of cases, even doctors don’t take the time to explain the difference between true sciatica and just “sciatica like symptoms”.

A person gets true sciatica symptoms when the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated close to the spine. This is usually the result of a bulging or herniated disc. Or, it could be the result of tight muscles around the sciatic nerve too. But real sciatica is more serious than the pseudo sciatica variety.

Most of the time sciatica symptoms will only be felt down one leg or the other. In rare cases, it may be felt in both. But for the most part, the bulging disc that’s usually responsible for causing sciatica is only bulging on one side and not both.

While it’s a pretty common condition that a lot of people have, most people don’t have a good idea of what it is. Sciatica is a set of symptoms. The symptoms could feel like pain, an electric shock, numbness and tingling, weakness, etc. The symptoms are telling you that there is something that is happening to the sciatic nerve. Sort like having a runny nose and fever are symptoms of an infection.

So,sciatica is a group of symptoms. It’s not a diagnosis. In order to treat it properly you have to find out what is irritating the nerve root and causing the symptoms such as numbness or pain.

This is a very important point. In most cases treatment for different causes of sciatica or sciatic symptoms may will be different. Sometimes the diagnosis may be a bulging disc. At other times it could be spinal stenosis. So, while the symptoms may be the same, the treatment will be different.

As was said before, true sciatica is often caused by a more serious problem that may require some kind of surgery. The symptoms of true sciatica are not easily relieved like the pseudo variety is.

Psuedo-sciatic type symptoms can sometimes be cured by exercise and stretching.

Sciatica Causes

Sciatica causes can often be difficult to understand. This sciatica video talks about the true causes of sciatica…


Find Out The Cause Of Sciatica Symptoms

So, how do you tell if you have real or pseudo sciatica? Well, the first thing the doctor will probably do is ask you about your symptoms. Do they run down the back or the side of the leg. If your sciatic symptoms run down the back of the leg, then your doctor may want you to take other tests.

These are usually an x-ray or MRI study. If either of these tests show that something is going on with the discs or bones of the spine, it’s an indication that the nerve is actually being compressed. If the lower nerves in your back are pinched you are probably having true symptoms of sciatica.

If the tests are negative, or, if your doctor doesn’t suggest surgery or something else, then a good stretching program will probably relieve your symptoms.

In fact, a good stretching program would be beneficial for sciatica symptoms in either case.

Creative Commons License photo credit: The.Rohit

Sciatica Symptoms In Women

Frequency Of Sciatica Symptoms In Women

© by long53030

While I haven’t seen any hard and fast statistics, it’s said piriformis syndrome causing sciatica symptoms in women occurs about 6 times more often than it does in men. But, although women and men are built differently, the treatment approach for sciatica symptoms is going to be the same.

There could be any number of reasons why this happens. Is it true sciatica or psuedo-sciatica? Most of the time sciatica symptoms come from tight and weak muscles rather than a herniated disc or other serious problem.

However, being pregnant or having recently been pregnant has also been known to cause sciatica symptoms in women. This is because during pregnancy the ligaments that hold the pelvic bones tight become more lax and are stretched to let the pelvis expand during birth.

This laxity in the sacrum and pelvis could be putting tension or a strain on sciatic nerve and causing these sciatica symptoms in women.

Diagnostic Tests For Sciatica Symptoms In Women

But, if you’re a woman who’s not pregnant and you’re trying to figure out why you are having sciatica symptoms, the first thing to do would be to ask your doctor for an MRI or a “Cat Scan”.

Both of these tests are pretty good at “seeing” if the discs in your spine are in good shape or not. If you’re like the majority of the population, your discs will be fine. While they may show a disc “bulge”, this is not nearly as serious or problematic as a “herniated”, disc

So, if it’s not the discs, what could be causing sciatica symptoms in women? Like I said above, it may be due to tight and/or weak muscles in the pelvis and thighs. Many times a tight piriformis muscle can cause “sciatica type” symptoms.

Also, tight hamstings, calf muscles, and “hip flexors” can conspire with the piriformis and make your life miserable too. In most cases, if you have a sit down job, you’re going to be having a problem in this area.

Treatment For Sciatica Symptoms In Women

So what’s a good treatment for sciatica symptoms in women? The best thing for anyone with these types of problems is to first be cleared by their doctor to begin a stretching exercise program.

Here’s a Tip: A stretching program should be approached like a marathon and not a sprint. It’s a long process you have to commit to. To do it right will take several times longer than you think it should.  And, you can’t see the finish line from where you are right now. You just have to get started, keep going, and not stop until you’ve reached the destination.

But, if you are one of those that are “too flexible” your problem might be that you need to “tone up” your muscles by lifting light amounts of weight over time. To get a good idea, look up the exercise book called “Slow Burn”. His whole program is geared toward this.

Other good toning workouts are gotten through Pilates and Yoga.

In addition to these exercise approaches, read my blog post on using ice or heat. I have seen a lot of people get relief from using an ice massage for pain control.

Don’t Make The Sciatica Symptoms In Women Worse

One last thing to keep in mind is this: Whatever you’re doing to get some relief shouldn’t make things worse. For some strange reason there’s a lot of people out there who believe that exercising to get out of pain is some sort of penance and if you’re not hurting yourself even more “it must not be working”. This is “crazy talk”.

If you’re already in pain, causing more pain will only…cause more pain. Your exercising may be uncomfortable. And this is natural because you’re having some sciatica type issues. But if exercising (or icing) causes your pain level to increase significantly or incapacitates you for a long period of time…you’re either being too aggressive, or, you’re doing the wrong exercise and it’s time to stop.

Summary: Sciatica Symptoms In Women

So, to summarize, it seems that women suffer more often from sciatica symptoms than men do. This may be due to a woman’s anatomy or pregnancy related issues or having more sedentary type jobs or lifestyles.

If you’re a woman having non pregnancy related sciatica symptoms, ask your doctor for an MRI or Catscan. If these tests come back “negative”, it means they don’t see any physical reason for your symptoms and it’s probably okay to start exercising. But, get cleared by the doctor first!

What most people need is a good lower body stretching program that is gentle and long term. Also, gentle toning exercises can be added if you find that you’re “too flexible”. For pinpoint pain relief, use an ice massage.

And finally, if what you’re doing to get out of pain actually causes more pain…stop doing it.

This a basic outline to treat sciatica symptoms in women.