The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It is located in the spinal cord of your lower back, but extensions of the sciatic nerve travel through the rest of your lower body, all the way down into your toes. Any problem with the sciatic nerve that can be felt through the legs is called sciatica.
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The most common sign of sciatica is pain throughout the muscles of your legs. This type of pain is called radicular pain. Radicular pain simply means that the pain involves a root nerve. The pain may range from tolerable to excruciating; in some cases, the pain may even be violent, like an electric jolt passing through your body. The pain can be felt especially when you're sitting down. It can also be felt if you do anything that involves flexing the spine, such as sneezing, coughing or sit-ups. Several different things, such as a herniated disk, bone spurs caused by arthritis or a pinched nerve, can cause the pain. In very rare occasions, it can even be caused by a tumour or other health problems completely unrelated to the spine.
The sciatic nerve allows movement and feeling throughout the lower half of your body. Naturally, if there's a problem with your sciatic nerve, you may experience some weakness. This weakness can be signalled by difficulty standing on the tips of your toes or lifting your heel off of the ground. You may also experience tingling throughout these areas, similar to the feeling you get when a body part falls asleep.
Since the sciatic nerve is made up of root nerves that extend from the spine, it's very likely for numbness to be a symptom of sciatica. Sometimes you may also experience pain or weakness in one leg and numbness in the other. This is especially true if you're suffering from a pinched nerve as pressure on the nerve can give you varied symptoms along your legs and calves.
If you experience symptoms of sciatica in the calves, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible. These signs and symptoms can be used to diagnose sciatica, but ultimately a physician will make the diagnosis. Self-medication for this condition is not recommended. While sciatica itself is a serious condition, it may also be a sign that something else is wrong with your body. Only a proper diagnosis and treatment from a physician can fix this problem.
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