Often when you experience chronic pain in your back and limbs, the diagnosis eventually points out to sciatica or piriformis syndrome. But arriving at this diagnosis takes a long time and requires a lot of open, comfortable communication between the patient and doctor. This is because both these disorders lead to tingling/aching pain, numbness and weakness along the sciatic nerve. This makes the whole process of accurate diagnosis long drawn out and usually is a result of trial and error. Thus, when the two terms are used interchangeably, as seen often by inexperienced practitioners, it can cause a lot of confusion among patients because although they exhibit very similar symptoms, they’re quite distinct from one another.
What do Sciatica and Piriformis mean ?
Sciatica is not a pain disorder by itself but rather a symptom of underlying condition which affects the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back through the glutes and back of your legs. Also known as lumbar radiculopathy by medical practitioners, it refers to a tingling, radiating pain and numbness that extends through the length of the sciatic nerve, with the origin usually being far from area of pain. Most commonly, it’s the lumbar spine region which is affected. For instance, lumbar herniated disc starts irritating one of the five sciatic nerve roots in the region, which subsequently starts radiating pain along the sciatic nerve down to your leg.
Priformis syndrome on the other hand arises out of irritation of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle present in your glutes/buttocks. Unlike sciatica, there’s no presence or irritation in your lumbar region and that is major difference between sciatica and piriformis syndrome.
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But both sciatica and piriformis syndrome sound the same. Why are we harping on their differences?
The importance of accurately diagnosing the underlying issue and origin of pain comes to fore when a treatment plan to address the pain is concocted.
See when something irritates or compresses the sciatic nerve, the pain is rarely experienced in the same area, often extending to the extremities. So only by tracing the origin and pinpointing the reason for damage to nerve root can one permanently alleviate the pain.
Moreover, the treatment and care for sciatica and lumbar spine issues differs quite a bit from the ones prescribed for piriformis syndrome since we’re dealing with two different regions.
There’s also the fact that it’s more than likely you’ll complicate your condition and cause your symptoms to degenerate by performing a stretch or treatment meant for sciatica or herniated disc when your pain is in fact the outcome of piriformis syndrome.
So always keep in mind that your doctor is your confidant and the journey to pain relief involves team work. Only with such a relationship can you be open and free enough to speak up about your pain and clarify any terms that seem confusing to you at first. Only good communication can help accurately diagnose whether you have sciatica or piriformis syndrome and eventually find a cure to your chronic pain, and in effect lead a pain free life.“Sciatica SOS” program which guarantees to alleviate your pain and sciatica symptoms within 7 days.