Sciatica Or Piriformis Syndrome? Which is it?

The sciatic nerve is a champion among nerves in the human anatomy. It is noted as such because it ranks number one as the longest and widest nerve. It stems from the lower back down to the legs and is connected to nerves in the mid and lower back. If the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, this condition is called sciatica. Sciatica is a symptom of a condition or disease and is not a condition by itself.

Sciatica can cause intense pain or mild discomfort and irritation. The duration of these symptoms can last up to about a month and should be taken seriously. Sciatica symptoms usually affect one limb at a time. If you have pain, weakness, numbness or a burning sensation in one of your legs, this could be a sign of sciatica. The pain doesn’t have to remain localized to the leg but it can radiate to the corresponding foot and hip.

Sciatica can be caused by several back problems like spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, a herniated disc and a degenerative disc disease. Sciatica is really just a signal that one of these issues is occurring and should not be considered to be an independent medical condition. The nerve root stemming from the spinal column is connected to the sciatic nerve. If there is anything that compresses, alters or irritates this nerve, the sciatic nerve can also be affected.

Sciatic symptoms are rarely felt on a permanent basis. The symptoms may occur sporadically and dissipate over a short period of time. During this period, you may want relief however, as the pain can be very extreme in some cases. Physical therapy can reduce the symptoms of the conditions that cause sciatica and piriformis syndrome. Physical therapy or regular exercise will decrease the pain. Massage therapy and acupuncture are also good treatments for sciatica and other back related health problems.

Piriformis Syndrome
The piriformis muscle is located near the pelvis, sacrum, a lower part of the spinal column, and your gluteus minimus. This flat muscle helps the hip to rotate and abduct, which is a major necessity when walking or running. Piriformis syndrome is a disorder that is neuromuscular. This syndrome takes place when the sciatic nerve experiences irritation caused by the periformis muscle. To treat piriformis syndrome, you can also get a massage to dull the pain and relax the nerve and surrounding muscles. Physical therapy is also good because it will stretch the muscles around the nerve and encourage strengthening. If you prefer taking medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are also recommended. Drugs like Advil and Motrin contain NSAIDs and will minimize inflammation.

In the most severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgical options to relieve you of the pain from either sciatica or piriformis syndrome. This should only be discussed once all other options fail. Since the symptoms for these diseases may come and go, it is better to use sustained treatment options for a while, even when symptoms are not present.

Filed Under: Sciatica
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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