What is Sciatica? Sciatica refers to pain, tingling, numbness or weakness felt in the legs due to compression of or injury to the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Pain begins in the lower back and radiates through the buttocks and down the leg. Sciatica is not an injury in and of itself, but is the result of an injury or condition related to structures surrounding the sciatic nerve.

What causes Sciatica? There are numerous causes of sciatica. The condition is caused by an injury in a surrounding structure that compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve. Some causes of sciatica include degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, a slipped or herniated disc, piriformis syndrome, pelvic injuries and fractures, and tumors, among other causes.

What are the symptoms of Sciatica? Sciatica typically causes pain, as well as tingling, numbness and weakness. The incidence of pain can vary widely, from a dull ache to an extremely sharp and shooting pain or burning sensation running down the leg. Pain is often felt on only one side and the symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness and weakness may differ at different locations throughout the leg. Pain may be worse at night, when standing, sitting or walking, or when coughing, sneezing or laughing.

How is Sciatica diagnosed? A medical professional will complete a thorough medical history as well as a physical examination, including performing a neuromuscular exam of the legs to check for pain, weakness, reflexes, and flexibility. Questions will be asked related to when the pain began, what increases or decreases the pain, what other injuries or conditions have been experienced and the severity of symptoms. Diagnostic tests to determine the cause of sciatica may include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, blood tests or other tests.

When should I seek care for Sciatica? If you experience sciatic nerve pain, it is best to consult with a medical professional to determine the source of the pain. If the pain is severe, or you experience weakness or loss of strength in the legs, swelling or redness, or have an unexplained fever you should seek immediate medical treatment.

What will the treatment for Sciatica consist of? Treatment of sciatica is dependent on the underlying cause of the sciatic pain and the severity of the symptoms. In some cases no treatment is necessary, but in others, treatments such as heat and cold therapy, over the counter pain medications, sleeping in a fetal position with a pillow between your legs, and physical therapy, including stretching and strengthening exercises will be recommended. If conservative treatments do not provide relief, injections may be used to reduce inflammation. Surgery is recommended in certain situations to repair an injury that is causing compression of the sciatic nerve.

Which muscle groups/joints are commonly affected by Sciatica? The sciatic nerve causes pain in the lower back, buttocks, and through the leg and foot. The sciatic nerve is located in the pelvis.

What type of results should I expect from the treatment of Sciatica? Treatment of sciatica will range from being completely successful to not being successful at all. The degree of success will depend in part on the underlying cause of sciatica, as well as the severity of the initial condition. Most treatments will result in at least partial if not full recovery, although pain may periodically recur and require additional treatment.