Yes, sciatic nerve pain can switch sides.
In this blog post we will discuss the how and why this can happen. Sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in the body. Irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve is known as sciatica. It is a very painful, irritating condition that can affect drastically the quality of your life.
Lets briefly look into how sciatica occurs. In our spine the vertebra are stacked on top of each other with discs in between them and there are nerves coming out from both sides of the spine. When these nerves are irritated or compressed this can lead to a nerve pain. The area of nerve pain will depend on the location of the nerve irritation. If the nerves are compressed in the cervical spine or neck it can lead to nerve pain in the arms and hands and if the nerves are compressed in the lumbar spine or lower back it can lead to nerve pain in the bottom or legs. Sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and runs through the bottom all the way up to the toes. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed anywhere along this path of the nerve.
One such incidence is when the Sacroiliac Joint (SIJ, the joint between your spine and pelvis) that is present in both sides in your lower back undergoes wear and tear (degeneration) and this causes compression of the sciatic nerve in this area. This wear and tear will usually start off on SIJ on one side and then move on to involve the SIJ on the other side. Here you will have sciatica on one leg initially followed by sciatica on the other leg. This is known as alternating sciatica.
There can be other variations of Sciatica too:
Neurogenic sciatica happens when you have a pinched sciatic nerve at the level of the spine. These would affect the lower limb and they will cause radiating pain to go into the legs anywhere from the back of the thigh to the tools depending on which part of the nerve is affected.
In referred sciatica the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated at anywhere along its path right from the lumbar spine to the legs to the toes. It can be at the level of any of the muscles that it passes through or under or over.
In bilateral sciatica both ends of the sciatic nerve can be pinched. For example, you might have symptoms in both the bottom and the legs. It's not very common and it can be caused by spinal or disc issues.
It is important to understand these different kinds of sciatica to have a better understanding of the relation between your lower back and sciatica. This will help you to make better and informed treatment choices when you discuss your symptoms and treatment plan with your doctor or healthcare professional.
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