Piriformis syndrome is a condition in which the piriformis muscle becomes tight or spasms and causes pain. This muscle can also irritate the nearby sciatic nerve which can cause pain and numbness and tingling along the back of the leg.
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The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that travels from the lower back through the hip and down the leg and into the foot. It supplies both skin and muscles. Symptoms can include pain, numbness and tingling, and in some cases weakness. Although some cases can be complicated, most are treated conservatively and never return.
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Most patients will say that stretching seems to make them feel better and more mobile. Although stretching is important, it is not always recommended once pain starts. Stretching is designed to lengthen muscles and tendons, but back problems typically affect the ligaments. The problem here is that the ligaments are stretched out, allowing what is known as creep to happen. Creep is a progressive change or length which occurs when the joint and ligaments are under a constant load they were not designed to handle. So while stretching may help a tight muscle, in this case its effect on ligaments can be detrimental.
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Sciatica may feel like a throbbing pain, numbness, weakness, or “pins-and-needles”. This is how Sciatica occurs. As the lower five nerve roots exit the spinal column they join to form the Sciatic nerve. Sciatica refers to the symptoms that develop because of compression or irritation of this nerve.
The Sciatic nerve travels down along the back of the leg all the way to the foot. Along the traveled path of the nerve, down along the back of the hip, thigh, knee, and calf, it must pass between the muscles of these regions. As long as the nerve is able to freely glide and move, it remains healthy. However, if the nerve becomes irritated along the way, symptoms can develop.
Although disc herniations often result in Sciatica symptoms, they are actually one of the less common causes of Sciatica. In fact, it is much more common for Sciatica symptoms to develop as result of problems in the muscles of the hip and leg. Through a variety of causes such as excessive or repetitive use with certain sports or occupations, muscle imbalances, or previous injuries it is common for small amounts of strain and imbalances to develop with the muscles of the hip. It is often the accumulation of soft tissue adhesions that restrict normal sliding or movement of the nerve. This results in that nerve being stretched, which will likely produce symptoms.