Sciatica: animation 

Sciatica causes pain that radiates out from the lower back, down the buttocks and into one or both of the legs, right down to the calf. This animation explains what sciatica is and what causes it.

Find out more about sciatica

Transcript of Sciatica: animation

(woman) Sciatica is pain that runs from your lower back, through your buttocks

and down your leg.

The pain is caused when the sciatic nerve gets compressed or irritated.

Your spine is made up of many small bones called vertebrae.

These are cushioned in between tough flexible discs of cartilage

that act as shock absorbers.

Your spine surrounds and protects the spinal cord,

a thick bundle of nerves connecting the brain

to the nerves of the trunk and limbs.

The space that the spinal cord runs through is called the spinal canal.

The nerves, including the sciatic nerve,

exit the spinal canal through small holes between the vertebrae.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body

and runs from the lower back through the pelvis down the back of each leg.

Sciatica is pain which spreads down one leg from the lower back and buttocks.

Usually the pain extends below the knee and may reach the foot.

The pain in the leg is characteristically worse

than the back pain

and there may also be tingling or numbness of the skin

and weakness of the leg muscles.

A slipped disc is the commonest cause of sciatica

and occurs when one of the discs between your vertebrae

bulges out between the bones, pressing on the nerve.

The disc most likely to cause sciatica if it ruptures

is at the junction of the lumbar and sacral vertebrae

at the base of the spine, in line with the top of the buttocks.

The risk of sciatica increases with age, increasing height, heavy lifting

and excessive straining.

Two other spinal problems may also cause sciatica.

These are spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis.

Both of which result in pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Spinal stenosis is caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal,

which puts pressure on the nerves running through it.

Spondylolisthesis is when one of the vertebrae slips forward

over the one below,

causing pressure on the nerve running in between.

Treatment options for sciatica include painkillers, physiotherapy and surgery.

However, sciatica sometimes passes without the need for treatment.

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